Gb, less stress and more turnover: success for a 4-day working week

Positive outcome for the maxi-test among the companies, almost all those involved plan to transform it into a permanent organization

In the UK, almost everyone agrees: the 4-day work week does not harm companies and improves productivity and health of employees. This is what emerges from the largest experiment ever conducted worldwide on a hypothesis which – also thanks to the pandemic – aims to establish new ways of working for some categories. The results of the pilot project will be officially presented today in London at the House of Commons but the results are already known and seem quite unequivocal in favor of the 32-hour working week. The test involved 61 British companies operating in very different sectors and which for six months from June 2021 have committed to reducing working hours by 20% for all staff, while guaranteeing equal pay for their employees .

In the end, it emerged that at least 56 of the 61 companies that participated in the program said they wanted to continue with the four-day work week: of these 18 companies confirmed that this approach had become a permanent change. Only three companies have communicated that they have suspended the four-day working week in their organization for the time being. Scholars from the University of Cambridge and the American Boston College conducted the research coordinated by the non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global, in collaboration with the Autonomy think tank and the campaign group 4 Day Week Campaign.

The findings revealed a significant drop in stress and sickness rates among the approximately 2,900 employees who experienced a shorter workweek. Approximately 39% of employees said they were less stressed than at the start of the trial, and the number of days of illness caught during the trial decreased by about two-thirds.

Moreover – says the report – employees have shown much more willingness to keep their jobs, despite the experiment being conducted precisely in the period of the “major resignations” in which – in a post-Covid afterthought – many workers have abandoned their occupations seeking more flexibility. Compared to the same period of the previous year, there was a 57% drop in personnel departures from the companies that participated in the programme. But anxiety levels, sleep difficulties and burnouts also fell, while a growing number of employees admitted that they found it easier to balance their family responsibilities. Most companies have opted to give all their staff Fridays off, while some said they could take Monday or Friday, while others opted for a common day off for staff. Good news also on the economic front, given that in the test period the turnover of the companies involved increased by 1.4%, a figure that jumps to +35% compared to the same period of 2021.

On the other hand, some employees have expressed concern about the increase in workloads and the need to define and concentrate their activities in a shorter time. But for Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, this experiment is “a major turning point” in a campaign towards a four-day workweek. “Across a wide variety of sectors of the economy, these incredible results show that the four-day, equal-pay week actually works,” Ryle said. “It’s definitely time to start spreading it across the country.”

Now the word turns to politics: last October Labor MP Peter Dowd presented a proposal that would lower the maximum working week from 48 to 32 hours for all British workers.