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95% of organisations involved in the UK’s four-day working week trial say productivity has maintained or improved

Data taken from respondents halfway through the trial showed the vast majority plan to stick to reduced hours after the trial ends later this year

The vast majority of UK businesses involved in the nationwide trial of a four-day working week have said they have been working at the same or improved rate of productivity as a typical five-day week. 

Nearly half of those involved (49%) reported improved productivity since starting the trial and 46% said theirs had been maintained, allaying the fears that fewer work days would lead to a drop in output.

The UK’s official trial of the four-day working week began three months ago and is now halfway through. More than 70 organisations are involved, including more than 3,300 workers.

The trial is run by 4 Day Week Global and the mid-trial results also revealed that 86% of participating organisations plan to keep the working dynamic after the trial ends. 

An almost equal proportion (88%) also said the trial is working well for their business so far and the majority (78%) said introducing the trial was a ‘smooth’ process.

“We are learning that for many it is a fairly smooth transition and for some, there are some understandable hurdles – especially among those which have comparatively fixed or inflexible practices, systems, or cultures which date back well into the last century,” said Joe O’Connor, CEO at 4 Day Week Global.

“While for most organisations the pilot prompts many pleasing discoveries and outcomes – a lot of businesses have more flexibility and nimbleness among their people and teams that leaders often know at the outset – there is friction for others, and this can be based on a variety of factors, many of which can be addressed or substantially improved in the pilot itself. 

“4 Day Week Global and our partners are supporting these businesses to ease their transition to a flexible work model, and using the findings to inform the process for many more businesses to trial, adapt, and reap the benefits of emphasising productivity over time – thereby transforming the world of work for all of us.”

Claire Daniels, CEO at Trio Media, a digital marketing agency, said the trial had been an “extremely successful” endeavour which has led to the business performing 44% better financially. 

Other businesses reported initial challenges such as adapting to changing workloads and managing annual leave more carefully but overall reported better employee wellness and greater productivity.

What is the UK’s four-day working week trial?

The UK followed other countries in trialling a four-day week in June 2022 after results from other nations revealed positive outcomes for those involved. 

Iceland’s four-year trial, which took place between 2015 and 2019, is arguably the most well-known in the world and showed benefits to productivity and happiness across various industries including healthcare, offices, and schools.

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The trials inspired a score of others, including the UK, to launch their own. Spain announced a three-year trial in 2021 during which participating businesses would reduce weekly working hours to 32, with the government reimbursing companies for any lost revenue.

Other countries like Ireland, the US, Japan, Belgium, and Scotland are also planning or have already begun trialling their own pilots.

The UK’s experiment is based on the 100:80:100 principle whereby workers receive 100% of their pay in return for 80% of their usual output, with the expectation that 100% of their previous productivity remains. 

This model goes against other implementations of four-day working weeks where extra hours were added to the four working days to make up for the single lost day. 

The same format was adopted by UK fintech Atom bank in 2021 - dropping hours but keeping the same salary.

In 2020, supermarket chain Morrisons announced a four-day week strategy that only saw head office staff make the change while also having to work one Saturday per month to recoup the lost working hours. 

The UK's ongoing programme is being run in partnership with the Autonomy think tank and the results are being analysed by researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University.

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