The world of work has seen a lot of change since the beginning of the 2020s, and — in turn — many companies have placed employee well-being at the top of their change agenda. Because without fully engaged, valued, and productive employees, businesses fail to achieve their goals.
And perhaps one of the most surprising changes to occur in businesses across the UK is the adoption of the 4-day working week.
But does a 4-day working week work? How can you increase productivity when employees spend less time at their workstations?
Read on for some fascinating facts and statistics about this most controversial of work pattern shifts.
What is the 4-day week?
Just for clarity, the 4-day working week is:
- Employees work four days out of seven
- Pay remains the same
- Daily hours stay the same
The UK-specific trials in 2022 overseen by Cambridge University and Boston College defined the 4-day working week using the 100-80-100 model.
This means that for 100% pay, companies permit employees to work 80% of their 5-day contract, with an expectation of 100% of their standard productivity and output.
Under this agreement, employees who normally work five 8-hour shifts per week will work four 8-hour shifts.
Most importantly, the 4-day week doesn't spread a typical 40-hour contract over fewer days — in most cases, employees work 32-hour weeks without a reduction in pay.
UK 4-Day Working Week Trial Facts
In 2022, a trial was conducted across the UK to see how effective a 4-day working week could be in practice. Some of the key findings from the UK trial were:
- 100% of the 33 participating companies stated an intention to continue the 4-day week (or were in the process of assessing its viability).
- 70% of employees stated that their next job would need a notable pay increase to return to a 5-day schedule, demonstrating additional employee loyalty due to the scheme.
- Participating companies rated the scheme's success at an average of 9/10. At the same time, almost all participating employees said they’d like to continue the trial (reporting significant improvements in fatigue, stress, and burnout).
When questioned about productivity and the financial impacts of the UK pilot trials, the outcomes were impressive. Out of the total participants, six companies provided sufficient data across the trial — and they found that their overall revenue increased by 8.14%, with an increase of 37.55% compared with the same period from the previous year.
Who was in the UK Working Week Trial?
33 companies engaged in the UK working week trial, with a total of 903 employees (969 by the end).
Companies who took part in the trial provided a range of services and products, but the largest groups of the trial were from the administrative, IT, and telecom sectors. The second largest subset of companies was professional services, with non-profits as the third group.
52% of the companies in the working week trial were small companies with fewer than ten employees, with the largest employing 400+ people.
What about international trials?
Internationally, research from Stanford University demonstrates that employees working 4-day weeks as described remain as productive in four days as they were in five.
In many cases, overall productivity increases.
Their thesis is that people are less productive the more hours they work. So, asking people to work four days instead of five focuses them better — especially because the rewards for higher productivity are more significant for the individual.
Why does the 4-day week make for more productive employees?
Companies have an expected workload to execute realistically within a single working week. That workload shouldn't increase or decrease under this 4-day plan.
Most studies have discovered that employees working 4-day weeks are happier and more productive because they have more leisure time.
The 4-day week addresses employees' needs for an improved work-life balance, meaning that when they're at work, they're more refreshed and able to tackle their existing workload.
Some statistics to reinforce the 4-day working week
- Workers in physically demanding roles benefit significantly from a 4-day working week, giving them more time to recuperate. Tiredness or fatigue causes around 13% of workplace injuries.
- The effects of fatigue are often compared to drunk driving — responses are slower, impairing decision-making and concentration. As a result, employees are less productive and more likely to cause themselves or others injury or damage equipment through negligence.
- According to The Engineer, 64% of manufacturing organisations believe a 4-day week could work for their businesses.
- Dropping down to a 4-day week reduces business operating costs — paying for four days of power and office costs rather than five.
- In one particular trial, employee stress levels dropped by 45% while maintaining productivity. This was attributed to better teamwork, improved motivation and engagement, and increased loyalty.
- A Swedish nursing home trial recorded fewer employee sick hours, better engagement, and improved employee mental well-being. This was without affecting customer satisfaction, which — in fact — increased, with staff arranging 85% more activities to keep them occupied.
- A 4-day working week trial in Utah saved $1.8m in energy costs while reducing CO2 emissions by 6000 metric tons — just by closing their offices on Fridays.
- Icelandic trials of 4-day working weeks were so successful between 2015 and 2019 that 80% of Icelandic workers now work a reduced week.
Ultimately, 36.8 million working days are lost in the UK due to stress, costing the economy £4bn a year. So, if the 4-day working week can improve employee well-being and welfare, there's a massive gap of unproductivity to fill.
Reducing worker stress with anti-fatigue matting
Of course, one way of reducing physical fatigue and stress is by supplying safe and favourable working conditions.
First Mats’ anti-fatigue mats are one of the best ways to reduce the impact of long-duration standing, offering significant support for the leg joints, which helps minimise physical fatigue on the factory or workshop floor.