Four-day workweek favored by UK employers in world’s largest trial

  • Nine out of ten pilot farms adhere to a four-day working week
  • Companies say that employees work more in less time
  • The four-day work week is gaining traction, but some companies are still hesitant

LONDON, Feb. 21 (Reuters) – Dozens of British employers trying out a four-day work week have mostly decided to stick with it after a pilot hailed by campaigners as a breakthrough for better work-life balance.

Employees from 61 companies across the UK worked an average of 34 hours over four days between June and December 2022, while earning their existing salary. Of these, 56 companies, or 92%, chose to continue in this way, of which 18 permanently.

The trial is the largest in the world, according to Autonomy, a British research organization that published the report alongside a group of academics and with support from New Zealand-based group 4 Day Week Global.

While the findings could be of interest to companies struggling for talent, other surveys show that very few other UK employers are planning a four-day work week anytime soon.

The Autonomy trial involved a total of 2,900 employees across industries ranging from finance company Stellar Asset Management to digital manufacturer Rivelin Robotics and a fish-and-chip shop in the coastal town of Wells-next-the-sea.

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The majority agreed that productivity had been maintained.

Staff said their well-being and work-life balance had improved, while data showed that employees were much less likely to leave their jobs as a result of the four-day work week policy.

“This is an important breakthrough moment for the movement towards a four-day work week,” Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said in a statement.


Paul Oliver, chief operating officer at Citizens Advice Gateshead, said job retention and recruitment had improved and absenteeism had fallen during the trial.

“Employees get more work done in less time,” he says.

For some workers, the extra day off was more important than pay: 15% said no amount of money would bring them back to a five-day work week. Some staff had Wednesdays off, while others had a three-day weekend policy.

Employers from the marketing and advertising, business services and charitable sectors were most represented in the trial. About 66% of the participants had 25 or fewer employees, while 22% had 50 or more employees. 11% were not-for-profit.

The trial reflects a growing scrutiny of how people work, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, when furlough arrangements and mandatory home-working periods led many to question whether they should be in the office five days a week.

In recent years, some larger international companies have tried a four-day approach and also reported successful results. Microsoft (MSFT.O) tested it in Japan for a month in 2019, while consumer goods giant Unilever (ULVR.L) conducted a year-long trial in New Zealand in 2020.

However, the British business community as a whole does not seem enthusiastic.

When the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which represents human resources professionals, surveyed members last year, it found that very few employers expect to move to a four-day work week in the next three years.

Two-thirds expect no change in the next decade.

However, evidence that it helped retain staff could be powerful for companies that have struggled to recruit employees since the pandemic. Britain has the added complication of leaving the European Union.

“That should give us a competitive advantage,” a senior manager at an insurance company said in the lawsuit over evidence of employee retention after a four-day work week.

Reporting by Sarah Young; additional reporting by David Milliken Edited by Andrew Cawthorne

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.


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