The largest 4-day workweek trial, spanning 70 companies in the United Kingdom, hit its halfway mark at the end of September (2022), and the preliminary results point promisingly toward a future with greater work/life balance without diminished productivity.
What Is the 4-Day Workweek Study?
The 4-day workweek study is being conducted by 4 Day Week Global “in partnership with leading think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College, and Oxford University.” The study employs the 100-80-100™ principle, designed by 4 Day Week Global cofounder Charlotte Lockhart. The principle commits to “100% of the pay for 80% of the time in exchange for a commitment to delivering 100% of the output.” Lockhart created 100-80-100™ principle during the initial 4-day workweek trial in 2018 at New Zealand-based company Perpetual Guardian. The success of the 2018 trial resulted in Lockhart founding 4 Day Week Global with Perpetual Guardian CEO Andrew Barnes.
4 Day Week Global’s claims that their “model is proven to deliver both improved company productivity, efficiency, and performance, alongside greater employee well-being, engagement, and work/life balance.” The model has led to academic curiosity surrounding the impact of employees working 4 days a week instead of 5 and whether it can truly be a “triple-dividend policy: better for the economy, better for society, and better for the environment.” So far, the 4-day workweek seems to be making good on its promises.
Since June, more than 3,300 employees from more than 70 UK-based organizations have taken a paid day off every week and will continue throughout the 6-month trial.
“The organizations in the United Kingdom pilot are contributing real-time data and knowledge that are worth their weight in gold. Essentially, they are laying the foundation for the future of work by putting a 4-day week into practice across every size of business and nearly every sector and telling us exactly what they are finding as they go,” says Joe O’Connor, 4 Day Week Global CEO.
Some companies have experienced a gentle transition with few bumps, while others have encountered hurdles. Changing an operational system more than 100 years old that has become an ingrained societal norm is bound to come with learning curves, yet many obstacles have either been resolved or significantly improved within the time frame of the pilot. Discoveries and outcomes have already proven valuable for teams and leaders, with no significant losses reported. “4 Day Week Global and our partners are supporting these businesses to ease their transition to a flexible work model and using the findings to inform the process for many more businesses to trial, adapt, and reap the benefits of emphasizing productivity over time—thereby transforming the world of work for all of us,” O’Connor stated.
What Are the Benefits of a 4-Day Workweek?:
Conversations around a 4-day workweek have already begun in the United States. An article penned for The Guardian by California Congressman Mark Takano says, “A 4-day workweek is the future. Here’s why.” on August 24, 2021, The August 2021 article argues, “Pilot programs run by governments and businesses in countries such as Iceland, New Zealand, Spain, and Japan have experimented with a 4-day workweek and reported very promising results. According to pilot studies, workers reported anywhere from a 25% to 40% increase in productivity, as well as an improved work/life balance, less need to take sick days, more time to spend with family and children, less money spent on childcare, and a more flexible working schedule, which leads to better morale.”
The data coming out of the UK 4-day workweek study seems to support the hoped-for increases in employee work/life balance and productivity. Of the 41 companies (out of 70+) that have reported data:
88% state the 4-day week is working well at this stage in the trial
95% state that productivity has “maintained around the same level” (46%), “improved slightly” (34%), or “improved significantly” (15%)
98% rated the transition a 3 or higher on a 5-point scale, where 5 indicates extremely smooth,” and 1 indicates “extremely challenging” (78% rated it a 4 or 5)
86% stated that at this point, they would be “extremely likely” and/or “likely” to consider keeping the 4-day workweek policy upon the trial’s end.
Growing pains during implementation did not seem to permanently tarnish the overall value for Nicci Russell, managing director at Waterwise, who said, “We're proud to be involved in the trial, and it's going well for us. It wasn't a walk in the park at the start, but no major change ever is, and we were well briefed and prepared by the 4 Day Week Global team. We have all had to work at it —some weeks are easier than others, and things like annual leave can make it harder to fit everything in—but we're much more settled with it now overall than we were at the start. We managed to incorporate … (additional) workload(s), but we still managed to stick to the 4-day week and the standard working hours, and the team (is) pretty happy … It's been great for our well-being, and we're definitely more productive already.”
Whether or not the study leads to ongoing organizational change for all participants or only lasts 6 months, one anonymous respondent confirmed that “...the 4-day week pilot has already shown us that there are things we could have implemented years ago, which would have improved our productivity and offered increased value for the organizations we work with.”
For some organizations, however, the benefits have been blatantly clear and inarguable. Claire Daniels, Trio Media CEO, shared, "The 4-day week trial so far has been extremely successful for us. Productivity has remained high, with an increase in wellness for the team, along with our business performing 44% better financially.”
Sharon Platts, chief people officer for Outcomes First Group, similarly stated that the 4-day week has been transformational for the company and that they’ve “been delighted to see productivity and output increase and have also been able to make it work in our education and care services, which we thought would be far more challenging. While it's still early days, our confidence in continuing beyond the trial is growing, and the impact on colleague well-being has been palpable."
What Comes Next for the 4-Day Workweek Study?
4 Day Week Global’s international campaign launch will support businesses through training, mentoring, networking, and researching as they expand the pilot program to North America, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand in 2022. You can sign up now to learn more about being involved in the next branch of the study.
The 4-day workweek study is providing convincing evidence that employee well-being and business productivity can and should be co-supporters of economic growth in the 21st century. 4 Day Week Global encourages “businesses, employees, researchers, and government to all play their part in creating a new way of working, which will improve business productivity, worker health outcomes, stronger families and communities, challenge the gender equality issue, and work toward a more sustainable work environment.”