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Researchers say trial of 4-day workweeks shows positive results

Photo: Dragon Claws/iStockphoto

Cambridge, England — Lower levels of work-related stress, as well as fewer sick days. Greater worker retention. And no drop-off in revenue for employers. These are some of the results of a recent trial of four-day workweeks at more than 60 organizations.

An international team of researchers recruited 61 organizations with a combined 2,900 employees for what’s being considered the largest four-day workweek trial conducted in the world. The seven-month experiment concluded in December.

“Companies, which included a range of organizations from diverse sectors and sizes, were not required to rigidly deploy one particular type of working time reduction or four-day week, so long as pay was maintained at 100% and employees had a ‘meaningful’ reduction in work time,” the researchers write.

Of the participating organizations, 56 continued with four-day workweeks after the trial. Of them, 18 instituted the change permanently.

Other results:

  • 71% of the employees reported less burnout and 39% felt less stressed.
  • 62% said they had a better work-life balance.
  • 60% said it was easier to balance work with “care responsibilities.”
  • Sick/personal days taken decreased 65%.
  • The number of employees who left the organizations dropped 57% during the trial period.

The employees often used the extra time off work for “life admin,” doing errands and chores around the house, for example. That left more time for leisure activities over the weekend.

“It was common for employees to describe a significant reduction in stress,” researcher Niamh Bridson Hubbard, a doctoral candidate at Cambridge, said in a press release. “Many described being able to switch off or breathe more easily at home.”

Some of the participating organizations used techniques to maintain employee productivity during the shorter workweek. Among them: shorter meetings with clearer agendas, the introduction of interruption-free “focus periods,” and “reforming email etiquette to reduce long chains and inbox churn.”

Of the 23 participating organizations that reported revenue data after the trial, they showed, on average, a marginal increase of 1.4%.

“We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into realistic policy, with multiple benefits,” said David Frayne, a research associate at Cambridge.

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