The UK’s four-day working week works

Apr 11, 2023 | Opinion, Sector & policy

The UK’s four-day week trial shows how reduced hours can boost wellbeing and productivity, explains Charlotte Lockhart, 4 Day Week Global co-founder.

Are you looking for a way to attract top talent, reduce employee burnout and improve business performance for little to no cost?

When people hear about the four-day week, they often wonder, what’s the catch? A pay cut? Squeezing 40 hours into four days? Working at a higher speed to achieve the same level output?

The flexible model of reduced worktime we advocate for at 4 Day Week Global is based on the general principle of 100:80:100™, pioneered by myself and our co-founder Andrew Barnes in the landmark Perpetual Guardian trial in New Zealand, 2018.

That’s 100% of the pay, for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to delivering 100% of the output.


In February, we released the results of the world’s largest trial of a 4 Day Week, which we ran in partnership with the UK’s 4 Day Week Campaign and think tank, Autonomy. 61 companies and almost 3,000 workers embarked on a six-month pilot of a four day week in 2022 and by all accounts, it was a resounding success.

The research – conducted by a world-class team of academics in Boston College and Cambridge University – found that almost every company (92%) decided to continue with the four day week after the pilot.

The vast majority were satisfied that business performance and productivity were maintained, with revenue increasing by 1.4% on average and the likelihood of an employee quitting dropping by a whopping 57%.

There was also a 65% reduction in the number of sick days taken across the entire cohort during the trial.

The employee outcomes are equally compelling, with staff reporting a 71% reduction in levels of burnout, a 39% reduction in levels of stress and a 46% reduction in levels of fatigue.

The majority (73%) of people recorded feeling a greater satisfaction with their time, as well as measures of physical and mental health improving. ISE research shows just how important this is with the number of graduates and apprentices with mental health issues increasing.

There are also valuable findings on gender equality and sustainability, with men taking on a greater share of childcare, and commuting time falling by roughly 30 minutes per week.

Finally – and reassuringly – people are not using their extra day off to take on paid work elsewhere. Instead, they are using it for hobbies and leisure, housework and caring, and personal maintenance. Research shows how important work-life balance is to retaining young people.

How does it work?

Some companies will choose the traditional 32-hour/four day week with a set day off; some may adjust rosters and shifts to achieve the same level of coverage and service throughout the workweek; and for some businesses, it might mean five shorter days.

But almost all companies that move to a four-day week do three big things: Radically shorten and reform meetings; use technology more thoughtfully and mindfully; and redesign the workday to build in distinct periods for focused work, meetings and social time.

Studies show that the average worker actually loses two to three hours each day to useless meetings, poor technology implementations and just plain old distractions. So the four-day week is already here, we just can’t see it because it’s buried underneath these outdated practices. And now we have the proof.

Try it yourself

While many people like the sound of a four-day week, most believe it could never happen in their business. However, this research proves what we already knew to be true – that the four day week works. Now it’s time for others to get on board.

The best way to do this is by running a trial in your organisation for a set period. To start, be very clear about what success looks like and give your employees an appropriate amount of time to prepare and plan how they will best succeed under this new programme. This should be a collaborative effort and not managed from the top, down.

As you run your trial, be prepared to adapt and change based on what you learn about your organisation. Provide regular engagement opportunities for management and employees to learn from each other too. Then, once your trial has concluded, compile and review your results and proceed accordingly.

Many companies have successfully attempted this themselves but for expert assistance, we have tiered packages of support available to assist you with this transition, developed using real-life experiences from a variety of businesses all over the world. Dare to be bold and explore the opportunities that this new work model can bring to your company.

You may also be interested in…

Work-life balance is important to Gen Z in 2023

Flexible working patterns is one way to motivate and inspire Gen Z at work

How to help apprentices thrive in hybrid working

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