A new study has proven that every company should switch to a 4-day work week

The results are in: It’s time for your company to stop working on Fridays (or Mondays).

The latest, perhaps most compelling evidence yet for moving to a four-day work week comes from a six-month trial that began in February 2022 in which 33 companies with employees in six countries reduced their employees’ workloads to four days, or 32 hours, a week. Organized by 4 Day Week Global, the real-world experiment sought to see if employees could be equally productive 80% of the time – all for the same pay. The results were overwhelmingly positive: companies in the program reported increased revenue and improved employee health and well-being, and had a positive impact on the environment. And after the success, another hundred companies that together employ thousands of people are considering or already implementing the same approach.

So if you’ve ever tried to convince your boss to switch to a four-day work week, this is the best proof yet that it can work. The results of the new report were unequivocal: The four-day work week was better for everyone.

‘It probably sounds crazy, but it works’

At the start of the trial, employees at Soothing Solutions, a Dundalk, Ireland-based company that makes cough lozenges for children, were skeptical that a four-day work week would be feasible, let alone profitable. But founders Sinéad Crowther and Denise Lauaki had high hopes. When the company was founded in 2017, the duo wanted to establish a people-centric culture, so when Crowther learned about the 4 Day Week program in 2021, she saw it as a way to attract and retain talent.

Since Soothing Solutions hired its first employees last year, not a single employee has left the company, and Crowther told me that the anecdotal feedback about the four-day week has been so great it almost brought her to tears. “One of our employees has an elderly parent who is terminally ill and she had to spend three, four days a week with them,” she told me. “She said nothing could give her that time back. She wouldn’t do it at any other job.” Another worker was able to pursue her passion for photography in her spare time, Crowther said, adding that “she turned out to be a fantastic photographer!”

Since Soothing Solutions started out using a four-day week, the founders have nothing to compare their business growth to, but Crowther isn’t worried about any negative impact of the four-day week on the business, even as the company grows. When we spoke, Soothing Solutions had just launched on Amazon and had their first sale in the UK. Its products are available in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Scotland, with plans for further expansion. “We have absolutely no concerns,” she said. – It probably sounds crazy, but it works.

4 Day Week Global is a non-profit community platform that promotes the four-day work week by helping companies implement it and by funding research into the future of work. The organization was founded following the success of a significant pilot program at New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian, co-founded by Andrew Barnes. To conduct trials in companies and analyze their results, the group teamed up with academics at Harvard Business School, Oxford University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The four-day week movement is gaining momentum after the Great Resignation and the push for employees to rethink the way we work. Tech startup Bolt became the first unicorn to try it in 2021, finding it so successful that it implemented it after three months. Other trials of shorter weeks have also been successful: a 2021 trial in Iceland produced positive results, and a 2019 Henley Business School research paper found that two-thirds of companies working a four-day week saw an increase in employee productivity.

However, there is some resistance. A shorter week could mean that an employee’s workload increases each day, causing more stress, not less. For companies that have significantly higher employment during the holidays or during the summer, it may not be possible to extend the program to a full year. And many businesses, such as banks or insurance companies that need 24-hour customer service or news outlets that follow a 24-hour news cycle, cannot close even one day a week. But in those cases, companies could approach the four-day week the way they already do weekends: simply arrange team schedules so that there are always people working.

No flaws

The ongoing push for a four-day work week is not the first time there has been a movement to overturn the traditional work model. Until 1926, the standard work week in the USA lasted six days. Then Henry Ford reduced the working week in his eponymous company to five days. He believed that an extra day off would increase worker productivity and give workers more free time to spend more money—hopefully on Ford cars. The trend caught on and, after workers organized in favor of the shift, the Fair Labor Standards Act set the standard for a 44-hour work week; the 1940 amendment established the now standard 40-hour week. Fast forward to today, and our norms seem ripe for an upheaval once again.

Barry Prost, co-founder of Irish talent recruitment company Rent a Recruiter, took part in a six-month trial of 4 days a week to tackle staff turnover — a problem for many businesses since the coronavirus pandemic. When the pandemic started, Rent a Recruiter was already transitioning to a permanent remote work model, and after hearing about the program, the company decided to try a four-day work week as well. It was particularly important to Prost to ensure that the change would not harm clients. Despite those reservations, Prost told me that not only were customers supportive of the changed schedule, but some even asked about the implementation of the policy themselves.

Crucially, the new approach has brought big gains to a small startup that employs 20 people. During the six-month trial period, Rent a Recruiter doubled its gross profit and calculated that the productivity of its staff also doubled during that time. And while that wasn’t the initial motivation, Prost told me the benefits showed up in more than just the company’s bottom line. “Anecdotally, we have a manager who is also a psychotherapist — now she can spend more time in her therapy practice,” he said. “We have moms and dads who can drop off and pick up their kids on Fridays that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.”

While staff well-being and retention are important, the trial was also linked to increased revenue among participating companies. Among the 16 companies in the survey that provided revenue data, combined revenue for the companies, weighted by size, rose 8.14%, which for some companies was nearly 40% higher than revenue growth during the same six-month period a year earlier. .

The companies that participated in the survey reported almost no defects. None of the 27 companies that completed the final participant survey said they planned to return to the five-day work week. And almost all 495 employees who participated in the trial wanted to keep the four-day work week. According to post-trial surveys, everyone from CEOs and managers to low-level employees noticed the far-reaching benefits, and a new trial is now underway across the UK.

Working fewer hours can also help the environment and gender inequality

While those who embrace the four-day work week may be primarily looking for the impact on business – in revenue or employee well-being – there could be less obvious benefits as well.

First, shorter working hours are associated with lower carbon emissions – people commute less and businesses use less energy. The 4-day-a-week trial showed that participants spent an hour less commuting to work than before the trial. And as Orla Kelly, an environmental sociologist at the University of Dublin who was the lead researcher for the 4 Days a Week trial, told me, a shorter work week also helps people make more environmentally friendly decisions. “When people work longer hours, they tend to be in that kind of spending cycle at work where the spending patterns are pretty intense,” Kelly said. With less free time, people are more likely to buy food in single-use plastic packaging, drive to work instead of walking or take public transport, and spend more money on material goods. Kelly tells me that the research is still in its early stages, as this is difficult to measure, but he hopes to delve deeper into the idea and provide more concrete evidence of the environmental benefits of a shorter work week.

The four-day week also provides major improvements in well-being, life satisfaction and sleep for women. Because women tend to take on more caregiving responsibilities, the extra day off was most beneficial for them, allowing the extra emotional labor load to be spread more evenly. In Ireland, where many of the companies in the study were based, 70% of part-time workers are women. “Women often work in lower-paying jobs, so they’re the ones who go part-time, even if they don’t want to,” Kelly told me. Especially in the last few years, women have left the workforce en masse or reduced their working hours due to exhaustion or lack of childcare options. “It can be problematic for their long-term career trajectory, their retirement contributions and the power dynamics within the household,” Kelly said. Reducing hours for everyone helps women stay in their full-time jobs and not feel like they’ve been kicked out of the workforce.

It is unlikely that the world will switch to a four-day week overnight, but the trial has yielded real benefits and revealed that it is possible for many different types of corporations, as long as they are willing, to make the change. As companies continue to struggle to attract and retain staff, a four-day work week could be a relatively simple solution. And after the latest trial, there’s not much excuse not to give it a try.

Molly Lipson is a freelance writer and organizer from the UK.

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