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Four-day week trial hailed ‘a major breakthrough’

The world’s biggest trial of the four-day working week has been celebrated as a major breakthrough– with most of the companies taking part deciding to continue with this new working pattern. 

The trial ran for 6 months from June last year and 61 firms across several sectors in the UK took part. The working week was cut to 32 hours with no reduction in pay. 

The “4 day week” campaign states that the 9-5, 5 day working week is outdated and no longer fit for purpose. They are campaigning for a four-day, 32-hour working week with no loss of pay which would benefit workersemployersthe economy, the society, and the environment. 

The research was conducted by academics at the University of Cambridge and the US’s Boston College and co-ordinated by the non-profit organisation 4 Day Week Global, in partnership with think tank Autonomy and the 4 Day Week Campaign. 

At least 56 out of the 61 companies involved in the pilot said they plan to continue with the four-day working week, including The Royal Society of Biology based in London. 

Tessa Gibson, a senior accreditation officer at the Royal Society of Biology, said she would not want to go back to a five-day week – adding: “Weekends can be quite hectic, so it has been quite nice to have that extra day to see your friends and family, and then you get that extra day off during the week to do all your chores or to have that time to relax.” 

Joe Ryle, the director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, called the trial a “major breakthrough moment”, stating: “Across a wide variety of sectors, wellbeing has improved dramatically for staff; and business productivity has either been maintained or improved in nearly every case.” He added: “We’re really pleased with the results and hopefully it does show that the time to roll out a four-day week more widely has surely come.” 

Positive impact on employee wellbeing 

The well-being of employees was the most beneficial part of the trial with more than half reporting that they were enjoying a better work/life balance and 39% said they were less stressed. Sick days fell by about two-thirds and retention rates increased.  

There was also a decrease in burnout, anxiety, and sleeping difficulties while balancing care responsibilities became easier for most participants. 

Juliet Schor, an academic from Boston College, which coordinated the trial alongside the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, stated: “We don’t have a firm handle on exactly what happened to productivity, but we do know that on a variety of other metrics – whether we’re talking about revenue, (workforce) attrition, self-reports of productivity, employee well-being and costs – we had really good results. The vast majority of companies reported that they were satisfied with productivity and business performance over the trial period. 

The researchers concluded that “the benefits of a shorter working week for no reduction in pay are now both well-known and well-evidenced: employees are happier and healthier, and the organisations they work for are often more productive, more efficient, and retain their staff more readily”. 

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