Less is more when it comes to the workweek, UK research finds

A large four-day workweek trial finds that companies and employees benefited from reduced hours and some companies plan to continue with a shorter workweek.

Less might be more when it comes to the workweek, according to a report based on the largest research trial in the UK.

The results are summed up in Autonomy Research Ltd.'s report The Results Are In: The UK's Four-Day Week Pilot, which paints an appealing picture for those advocating for a four-day workweek. "The trial was a resounding success," the report said. "Of the 61 companies that participated, 56 are continuing with the four-day week (92%), with 18 confirming the policy is a permanent change."

The trial conducted by several research bodies included about 2,900 workers from 61 companies across sectors from June to December 2022.

The case study illustrates that organisations and workers derive positive effects from reduced hours. For employees, levels of anxiety, fatigue, and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved; and companies, when compared to a similar period from previous years, reported revenue increases of 35% on average, the report said. Leaders also benefit, the report said.

Meanwhile, the number of staff leaving participating companies dropped by 57% over the trial period, with 39% reporting they experienced less stress and 71% saying their level of burnout was less, the report said.

As staff retention remains a top concern for companies, reducing hours may help them keep talent.

The incentive drives work/life balance to the forefront, according to the report. While many participating employees felt this was a significant reward from the programme, some leaders also benefited from the opportunity for a new outlook, the report said. "I don't want to retire and go 'What … do I do now?' ... I need to start doing things now that are going to sustain me when I finish working," a participating CEO expressed.

The research also found that "the vast majority of companies were also satisfied that business performance and productivity were maintained". This corresponds with CIMA research from December 2021 on enhancing productivity, which found that promoting employee wellbeing and care can help organisations excel.

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