What the 4-Day Trial Work Week Reveals About Employee Well-Being

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What the 4-Day Trial Work Week Reveals About Employee Well-Being


The verdict is in. The 4-day work week improves employees’ lives without undermining company goals, at least according to a new study.

UK studies conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Boston College found that a 4-day work week improved employees’ feelings of burnout and stress and reduced their sick and personal days.

“We are really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies are turning the four-day week from a dream into a realistic policy, with multiple benefits,” said Dr. David Frain, a sociologist at the University of Cambridge, in a press release.

Employees in various industries report reduced feelings of anxiety, fatigue and poor sleep and improved physical health. Seventy-one percent of employees reported feeling lower levels of burnout and 39% reported lower levels of stress compared to the start of the 4-day workweek trial. Overall, sick and personal days have decreased by 65%.

The results mirror previous trials yielding positive results in other countries. 4 Day Week Global, the non-profit organization that helped facilitate the trial, found similar results in their US and Irish study published in the fall of 2022. Employers reported better job performance and employees reported more -low levels of burnout and stress.

“It was common for employees to describe a significant reduction in stress,” said Niamh Bridson Hubbard, a researcher and PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, in the press release. “Many described being able to switch off or breathe easier at home. One person told us how their ‘Sunday dread’ had disappeared.’

The UK-wide study included nearly 3,000 employees who committed to a 20% weekly reduction in working hours from June to December 2022. Sixty-one companies in the UK engaged in reductions in working hours in a myriad of ways (not all simply have taken Friday off). However, the study’s requirement is that the reduced working hours must be “meaningful” while employees maintain standard pay.

The researchers also explored how the reduction in the working week affected people’s sense of work-life balance when it came to caring responsibilities and leisure time: 60% said it was easier to balance work and caregiving, while 62% say it is easier to balance work and social life. Researchers say the pandemic has highlighted existing inequities in mental health and caregiving responsibilities that affect a person’s ability to function at their maximum potential, according to the press release. Therefore, assessing overall well-being is not only a personal issue, but also a business issue.

This analysis included in-depth interviews with employees and leaders who spoke before, during, and after the 4-day trial workweek. One CEO of a non-profit organization interviewed about the process says, “I hated the pandemic, but it made us see each other a lot more and made us all realize how important it is to keep a healthy head and that family matters. ” in the press release.

While some feared a reduction in productivity, the reduction instead gave people a chance to cut down on unnecessary time spent that didn’t help productivity goals or the bottom line. This analysis found that the reduced work week did not affect company revenues – on average, they increased by 1.4% in the industries studied. In previous trials in the US and Ireland, revenue jumped 38%.

“Many employees were very interested in finding efficiency gains themselves. Long meetings with too many people were shortened or completely abandoned. Workers were much less likely to kill time and actively sought out technologies that improved their productivity,” said Brendan Burchell, professor of social sciences and leader of the study at the University of Cambridge, in the press release.

After the trial ended, 56 out of 61 companies decided to keep their working hours reduced, with 18 making the policy permanent.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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