World’s biggest four-day working week trial hailed a ‘major breakthrough’

Results of trial in the UK revealed a significant drop in the rates of stress and illness among staff

Hutch, a London-based gaming company, one of 70 companies that took part in the UK four-day work week experiment. Photo: Bloomberg
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The trial of a four-day working week in the UK, the largest of its kind in the world, has been celebrated as a “major breakthrough” after the majority of participating companies announced their intention to continue with the shorter week.

The results of the pilot scheme, which involved 61 companies across sectors in the UK, will be presented to MPs on Tuesday.

The trial, which ran for six months from June last year, required firms to reduce their working hours for all employees by 20 per cent without any reduction in wages.

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

The study revealed a significant decrease in rates of stress and illness among the approximately 2,900 staff who participated in the shorter working week.

The number of sick days taken during the trial dropped by around two thirds, and 39 per cent of employees reported being less stressed compared to the start of the trial.

There was a decrease in anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and burnout, while balancing care responsibilities became easier for more staff. The report also noted a 57 per cent decrease in the number of staff leaving participating companies compared to the same period the previous year, despite the “great resignation” period.

Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said “across a wide variety of different sectors of the economy, these incredible results show that the four-day week with no loss of pay really works”.

He said: “Surely the time has now come to begin rolling it out across the country.”

At least 56 out of the 61 companies confirmed they will continue with the four-day working week, while 18 of them have made the policy a permanent change.

The study found that company revenue increased slightly by 1.4 per cent on average over the trial period and by a higher 35 per cent when compared to the same six-month period in 2021. However, concerns were raised by some staff about increasing workloads and less sociability in the workplace.

The campaigners and academics will present the results at an event in the House of Commons on Tuesday, chaired by Peter Dowd, a Labour MP who proposed the 32-Hour Working Week Bill in October.

Dr David Frayne, a research associate at the University of Cambridge, said: “We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into realistic policy, with multiple benefits.”

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”.

Updated: February 21, 2023, 12:36 PM