Will The Four-Day Work Week Take Over the World?

Is four about to become the new five?

From May through November of 2022, more than 3,300 employees at 70 companies in the United Kingdom participated in a pilot study designed to test out the pros and cons of working a four-day workweek. This story in The Economist describes the overall approach: "A pilot scheme to trail the four-day workweek in Britain."

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, results from that study started popping up all over the news. The headline from the Washington Post article pretty much sets the tone of what came out by way of some pretty eye-popping and inspiring results: "A four-day workweek pilot was so successful most firms say they won’t go back."

Yes, That’s Right: The Four-Day Work Week Wins Out

The study’s results argue pretty strongly that a four-day workweek is better than the five-day alternative for all parties involved — including management and owners (or stockholders), as well as the workers who fill those jobs. The Post is launching salvos include the following remarks (all quoted verbatim from the aforelinked story):

"(A) majority of supervisors and employees liked [the four-day workweek] so much they’ve decided to keep the arrangement."
"15 percent of the employees who participated said 'no amount of money' would convince them to go back to working five days a week."
"Companies' revenue 'stayed broadly the same' during the six-month trial, but rose 35 percent on average when compared with a similar period from previous years."
"Resignations decreased."

Who Ran This Show?

An "advocacy group" named 4 Day Week Global worked with a research firm named Autonomy, along with faculty and staff from Boston College and the University of Cambridge, to conduct this study. Although The Economist reports that more than 3,300 employees took part in the study, the Post says that it was "nearly 3,000 employees" who took part.

One wonders whether perhaps some participants might have dropped out along the way, but I couldn’t find any info on that one way or the other.

According to the Post reporting, company participants in the pilot had to "meaningfully" shorten employee work weeks. Some simply adopted the four-day workweek, while others took steps toward "reducing their working days in a year to average out to 32 hours a week." At the same time, those companies had to continue employee paychecks unchanged.

(Or as the Post reporting frames it, employers had to "ensure that the employees still received 100 percent of their pay.")

What Came Out of the Study?

Is four about to become the new five?

The Post story says workers reported benefits related to "their sleep, stress levels, personal lives and mental health." Of 61 companies that finished the trial (again, note the difference with The Economist’s earlier reportage), "56 said they would continue to implement four-day workweeks after the pilot ended."

Eighteen of those companies "said the shift would be permanent." (Cue the sounds of many jaws dropping.) The Post coverage summarizes the results of the study as follows:

"The findings from the U.K. trial build on the results of an earlier, smaller pilot published in November and also coordinated by 4 Day Week Global. That experiment, which involved about 30 companies and 1,000 employees in several countries, resulted in increased revenue, reduced absenteeism and resignations, and improved employee well-being.

"None of the participating firms planned to return to five-day workweeks after the pilot ended."

Please note: I think this latest round of information is probably the one to go by, judging from the differences between earlier reporting in The Economist and this latest information from the Post.

OK then, we now know that a four-day work week works well for all parties involved. My question is: When can we bring this to our own workplaces? Don’t ask me: Ask your boss! Cheers!

Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at www.edtittel.com, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.