A tech company trialing a 4-day working week has ended up scrapping it completely after some of its staff reported that it became too stressful.
Krystal, a London-based company, reverted back to a five-day week after they found the speed and quality of their employees' work took a turn for the worse, as did their mental health.
Other 4-day week trials have gone much better, however, with a number of companies reporting a positive change in staff well-being and productivity levels.
When a 4-Day Week Goes Wrong
Internet services company Krystal switched to a 4-day week in June of this year after hearing about the research and trials being conducted by various companies and organizations. However, at Krystal, it didn’t go quite to plan.
In an email seen by The Times, CEO Simon Blackler said that “while team members did have the benefit of an extra day off”, they determined that “the extra recovery time did not increase output by the 20 percent necessary to replace that which had been lost.”
Blackler said that members of his team tried “admirably” to stay on top of their workloads and ensure that a normal service was maintained, but found that this led to a more stressful four days at work overall.
The trial, albeit unsuccessful, still presented an opportunity for reflection – Blackler confirmed that the company has shortened its working day so staff finish at 5 p.m. rather than 6 p.m.
What About The Other 4-Day Week Trials?
Although Krystal’s experience with the 4-day workweek shouldn’t be ignored, they are a little bit of an outlier. Recent 4-day week trials involving thousands of employees have returned overwhelmingly positive feedback.
The world’s largest 4-day workweek trial took place in the United Kingdom in 2022 and involved 2,900 workers across 61 companies.
Research organization Autonomy revealed in February 2023 that out of those 61 companies, 56 (92%) planned on continuing on with reduced hours, while 18 confirmed that they'd made the policy a permanent change at the time of publishing.
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60% of workers who participated in the trial said it was easier to balance care responsibilities with their work during a 4-day week, while 62% said it was simply easier to combine their work with their social life thanks to the reduced hours. 39% of employees said they were less stressed while 71% reported reduced burnout levels.
Revenue remained almost constant over the trial period, rising by 1.4%. However, compared to similar periods in previous years, there was a 35% increase on average across participating companies. Staff retention also improved, with the number of staff leaving dropping by 57%.
A separate study in Canada also saw the 4-day switch declared a resounding success. After the trial concluded, all 41 companies that took part confirmed that they’d be willing to keep the reduction to their staff’s work hours as a permanent measure.
It's not hard to understand why, too – revenues increased by an average of 15% over the course of the trial, while mental health improved by 17% and life satisfaction increased by 17%. Work-life balance increased by a larger margin of 35%.
A global study involving 33 organizations and almost 1,000 employees found similarly positive results, with revenue rising and businesses finding it easier to recruit talented employees. Once again, employees felt less burnt out, stressed, and fatigued.
So while there are – and always will be – cases of companies like Krystal not faring so well after reducing hours, most large-scale 4-day workweek trials conducted in recent times have returned overwhelmingly positive results.