UK successfully trials biggest four-day working week pilot; what could this mean for your business and the future of business operations?

UK successfully trials biggest four-day working week pilot; what could this mean for your business and the future of business operations?

“The economy doesn’t need us to be working five days a week any more. It was 100 years ago… but the economy has transformed since then.” (Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign)

Results released earlier last month from the UK four-day week trial show an overwhelmingly positive response from staff, claiming they feel less stressed without compromising productivity levels.

The trial is billed as the world’s largest to date, and looks to be an incredible success.

56 out of the 61 participating firms decided to extend their trial period, and are still in the midst of continuing it now, with 18 implementing the work regime permanently. This hails as evidence that a 32 hour week is working in the UK, and could stand to work across the entire UK economy.

Do you feel as if a four-day working week would work for your firm? And what could this mean for the future of business operations?

The UK pilot started in June 2022 and ended December 2022, promoted by a not-for-profit organisation 4 Day Week Global, founded in New Zealand.

Joe Ryle, the director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, called the trial a “major breakthrough moment”, as “across a wide variety of sectors, wellbeing has improved dramatically for staff; and business productivity has either been maintained or improved in nearly every case.

What are the exact results from the study?

Across the UK, a total of around 2,900 employees took part in the pilot.

Surveys of staff taken before and after show that 71% feel less burned out, 39% less stressed, and 48% more satisfied with their job than before the trial.

Additionally, 60% said it was easier to balance work and responsibilities at home, and 73% reported increased satisfaction with their lives overall.

The findings also show that fatigue was down, people were sleeping more and mental health significantly improved. See more of the findings here.

This may be great for employees, but what about the effect on business revenue?

Despite fear that this could create less revenue and overall profit for the business, the findings say revenue wasn’t affected among companies that rolled out shorter work hours.

In fact, revenue grew 1.4% over the course of the trial for 23 companies that provided adequate data — weighted for the size of the business — while a separate 24 companies saw revenue climb more than 34% from the same six-month period a year earlier.

Considering the switch?

Carefully planning the shift to a four-day week and providing specific training for managers and employees in advance is crucial to success. A poor implementation could result in problems including stress, unfairness (negatively affecting part-timers, for example), and ultimately, a lack of engagement around preserving productivity. To ensure the success of a four-day working week, input, feedback and commitment from employees at every company level is crucial.

Pros and Cons for a 4-day working week:

Reasons for Reasons against

- Improved morale and fewer absences:. A shorter working week leads to less burnout, making staff happier and more focused in their roles

-Aids recruitment: Offering potential and existing employees a flexible working pattern will help attract and retain talented professionals.

- It doesn’t suit all industries: Some sectors require a seven-day-a-week presence, which could make a short working week impractical. Examples include emergency services, public transport networks and logistics.

-It can increase costs: Some sectors, such as healthcare, require staff to work long shifts. Companies in these areas may have to pay more overtime or draft staff in to make any shortfalls.

The four-day working week is also in the midst of trial in other parts of the world:

Belgium: Belgian full-time employees recently won the right to work a four day week without a loss of salary. Employees are given the choice to work a four or five day week, depending on their personal preference.

New Zealand: Successful consumer giant Unilever says that following encouraging results from an 18-month trial in NZ, it is expanding a four-day week trial to its business in Australia. “The New Zealand trial showed strong results against business targets, including revenue growth, with the vast majority of staff reporting feeling engaged, and absenteeism dropping 34%,” the company claims.

Iceland: The country ran a four day working week pilot between 2015 and 2019. It found that the well-being of 2,500 workers who took part increased in terms of health and work-life balance.

Like the rest of the business environment, what it means to work ‘full-time’, is ever-evolving. Combined with growing patterns of remote working-from-home styles, it seems as if the working world is moving towards a new idea of what it looks like to run, and work, in a business.

So, what do you think?

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