If you're looking for an alternative to remote or hybrid working, a four-day work week might just be the answer.
According to a six-month global study backed by researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College, and Oxford University, all participating companies reported a massive boost in their performance, productivity, revenue, and employee satisfaction across the board, after trialing a four-day work week.
The 32-hour week study, which monitored 969 people from 33 companies in the US, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada also concluded that two-thirds (67%) of employees felt less burned-out with no significant increase in workload during the trial period, and 96.9% wanting to continue the experiment.
The results come at an interesting time, with businesses are under pressure to retain their top talent and improve their margins, but mass layoffs and changes to work from home policies have resulted in employees leaving in massive numbers. The new report suggests a four-day work could be a happy medium.
The 4-Day Work Week Study Global Findings
In 2022, 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit organization based in New Zealand, coordinated “the world's first global, independent research into the impacts of a 4-day week,” recruiting 33 organizations with 969 employees in the US, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada.
The study, which took place over a six-month period, monitored company revenue, performance, productivity, wellness, and other metrics during the 4-day, 32-hour work week with no reduction in pay. The results, released this week, were overwhelmingly positive.
“Companies are extremely pleased with their performance, productivity and overall experience, with almost all of them already committing or planning to continue with the 4-day week schedule…Revenue has risen over the course of the trial. Sick days and absenteeism are down. Companies are hiring. Resignations fell slightly, a striking finding during the ‘Great Resignation.' Employees are similarly enthusiastic. And climate impacts, while less well-measured, are also encouraging.”
The statistics put forward a strong case for businesses looking to find a balance by encouraging workers to return to the office, but also in retaining their top talent. Here's how the stats breakdown.
Four-day work week impact on businesses
- Overall revenue rose 8.14% (weighted by company size) in the six-month period
- Revenue across the board was up 37.55% compared to same six-month period of previous
- 63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a 4-day week.
- Companies saw a 12.16% increase in the number of employees over the course of the trial
Four-day work week impact on employees
- 67% of employees reportedly felt less burned-out
- Fatigue levels decreased from 66% to 57%
- Sleep problems reduced from 59% to 51%
- Anxiety and negative affect also both fell substantially
- Employees with 4-day weeks are happier (78%) and less stressed (96.7%)
With remote work policies changing, and businesses forcing employees to return to the office, the four-day work week could be an alternative for those still in search of a better work-life balance. Most companies, however, may need more convincing.
Big Business Is Buckling Under Mounting Pressure
During the pandemic, companies saw a big surge in online spend, with more people streaming content, shopping, and spending time on social media, with companies hiring specifically to accommodate the increase in demand. When the world came out of lockdown, the boom inevitably subsided, with companies who had previously benefitted now facing a major economic downturn.
Productivity paranoia saw an increase in employer demands, with companies like Meta and Google demanding employees raise the bar on both product excellence and productivity, and employers redacting their work from home polices, demanding employees return to in office work.
Employees, however, aren't happy. Mass resignations this year were recorded across the board, with top execs, like Apple’s Director of Machine Learning, quitting in opposition of the Apple's work from home policy changes, demanding more flexibility within his team, showcasing just how high up the need for flexibility goes. Companies, however, are under pressure.
Soaring inflation has caused digital advertisers in the US to cut back on spend, impacting tech companies in particular, who rely heavily on the revenue. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve continues to increase inflation rates, with the central bank announcing its fourth straight increase of 0.75% just earlier this month, causing many companies to make cuts, leading to mass layoffs.
“We’ve seen a surge in layoffs in recent weeks because it’s becoming obvious that the [Federal Reserve] will need to keep increasing interest rates for longer than originally expected,” – Roger Lee, founder of Layoffs.fyi, told TIME.
Is The Four-Day Work Week the Answer?
While the four-day week experiment was a success in all the companies who participated, companies under pressure to meet targets during economic uncertainty may be hesitant to reduce working hours. The study, however, suggests that the impact of a four-day week may have the opposite effect.
Since companies redacted their work from home policies and demanded a return to in-office work, studies show that productivity in the US has actually hit an all-time historic low, suggesting that businesses do in fact need a change. Could a four-day week be the answer?
With quiet quitting on the rise, and companies struggling to retain their top talent, flexibility may have more of a positive impact on businesses than leaders may think.
While the five-day work week is still very much in place in the US, some companies have started testing out shorter weeks. With reports of a huge surge in applications on job openings despite the longer advertised hours. Unions are in favor too. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) previously endorsed the “32-Hour Workweek Act,” first introduced by California Rep. Mark Takano last year, stating:
“It is past time that we put people and communities over corporations and their profits — finally prioritizing the health, wellbeing, and basic human dignity of the working class rather than their employers' bottom line.” – CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal.
Maybe the four-day work week is the happy medium businesses and employees need.