Companies in global four-day week trial to make it permanent

Participants have reported a boost in revenue and drop in sick days and resignations, study finds

Companies and employees have reported a better work-life balance since joining the global four-day week trial. Getty
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Organisations participating in the world’s first study on the benefits of a four-day, 32-hour working week plan to retain the model after reporting an increase in revenue alongside a drop in sick days and resignations, New Zealand-based non-profit advocacy group 4 Day Week Global said on Wednesday.

The companies involved in the six-month pilot programme, which gave workers an extra day off per week without a reduction in pay, said they will not return to the traditional five-day working model, according to 4 Day Week Global, which co-ordinated the study in partnership with the University College Dublin, University of Cambridge and Boston College.

Workers felt less stressed and burnt out, and reported higher rates of life satisfaction, while there were significant declines in the duration and frequency of commuting and other positive environmental outcomes, the study found.

Watch: UAE government sets out 4.5-day working week

“A wide range of well-being metrics showed significant improvement, including stress levels, burnout, fatigue and work-family conflict,” said Wen Fan, an associate professor at Boston College.

“Physical and mental health also improved, alongside satisfaction across multiple domains of life, which may be linked to people getting better sleep and more exercise.”

Thirty-three companies and almost 1,000 employees in countries such as the US, Ireland and Australia took part in the study, the first in a series of pilots that will also include trials with organisations in Canada, Europe and South Africa.

In June, more than 3,000 workers at 70 companies in the UK also started a six-month trial of a four-day working week under the pilot programme.

Organisations worldwide are focusing on employee well-being, work-life balance and learning opportunities in the post-coronavirus era.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, employees and jobseekers are increasingly requesting to work from home at least two days a week, in addition to asking for flexible hours and training opportunities, recruitment company Robert Half said in its 2022 salary guide.

On January 1, the UAE became the first country in the world to implement a 4.5-day working week for public sector employees.

In a landmark decision, the federal government also announced a shift to a Saturday-Sunday weekend, with a half day of work on Friday.

At the time, the UAE's labour minister said the private sector will receive no official instruction to make the change, and can do so at their own discretion.

However, schools, numerous private companies and banks in the UAE have adopted the 4.5-day working week.

Sharjah's public sector switched to a four-day working week model at the start of the year.

UAE weekend change — in pictures

Companies taking part in the four-day week global programme were extremely satisfied with their overall productivity and performance, according to the study.

On average, revenue increased by more than a percentage point each month, with a total rise of 8 per cent during the trial. When compared with the same six months in 2021, it rose by 38 per cent, the study said.

“The four-day week has been transformative for our business and our people,” said participant Jon Leland, chief strategy officer at US crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

“Staff are more focused, more engaged and more dedicated, helping us hit our goals better than before. Greater employee retention and faster hiring has been surprisingly powerful in driving improved business outcomes, too,” he added.

“We're achieving more as an organisation, while giving people time to start new creative projects, rest and be with their families. It's a true win-win.”

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Employees also rated the pilot highly, with 97 per cent saying they want to continue on a four-day week, the study said.

“We were encouraged that participants did not experience an increase in the intensity of work,” said Juliet Schor, lead researcher and a professor at Boston College.

“This suggests that the work reorganisation strategy succeeded and performance was not achieved via speed-up, which is neither sustainable nor desirable.”

When asked about the monetary value of their extra day off, 70 per cent of employees said their next job would need to offer between 10 per cent and 50 per cent more pay for them to return to a five-day schedule, while 13 per cent said no amount of money could make them go back.

“These calculations should serve as a strong signal to employers that it’s time to retire the nearly hundred-year-old convention of the five-day, 40-hour week and begin to embrace a four-day, thirty-two hour week,” the study said.

Updated: November 30, 2022, 10:07 AM
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