Have you ever felt that you’d be more productive at work if you had more free time away from the office? Initially, that idea might seem counterintuitive, but many businesses are becoming open to the idea that the working week should be defined by productivity rather than hours.
In June 2022, 70 UK companies with a total of 3300 employees started the 4 Day Week Global trial, the biggest of its kind so far. The trial will give insight into how reducing work hours can affect team productivity and well-being and potentially inspire other companies to follow suit. The trial results are yet to be seen, but there’s no doubt that reducing work time and boosting productivity has become a hot topic, with searches around four-day weeks increasing tenfold since 2020.
But can reducing company hours really increase productivity and even revenue? Many businesses worldwide have already adopted a four-day policy, with positive results that point to an exciting new direction for the future of the workplace.
Whilst anticipating the results of the 4-day week trial, we took the time out to ask our Instagram followers what they felt would be the most affected by working four days a week. Out of our 12.3K followers, 38% of people agreed that they would be happier implementing this routine, against 16% who felt productivity would be affected.
According to the latest government data, the average person in the UK works 36.5 hours weekly. For a long time, the 35–40-hour Monday-Friday working week has occupied a comfortable position as the status quo in office work across the UK, and it’s only recently that an alternative has started to be seriously considered.
Advocates of the four-day week argue that people could be just as productive, if not more, if their working week were reduced by one day. By freeing up more time for employees away from work, the argument goes, businesses would see an increase in motivation and productivity due to fostering a healthier and happier relationship with work. That makes sense, right?
And it’s not just a nice theory, it’s backed up by research. A Stanford University study found that working more than fifty hours in a week actively harms productivity, so much so that those who work up to seventy hours per week see a net zero increase in productivity against those who work up to fifteen hours less. More work time doesn’t mean more work. That’s a mantra we can get behind!
The 4 Day Week UK trial isn’t the first of its kind. The first four-day week trial to gain widespread recognition was that of Kiwi trust management firm Perpetual Guardian, which started a four-day week way back in 2019. Their experience caused heads to turn amongst businesses worldwide when they reported that moving to a four-day week gave rise to a 20% increase in team member productivity, a 27% reduction in workplace stress, and a 45% improvement in work-life balance positive statistics.
Since then, other prominent businesses have trialled a four-day week. Microsoft Japan saw a 40% productivity boost, and Buffer found that 91% of employees were happier and more productive with four-day weeks.
Less than two months into the 4 Day Week UK trial organised by 4 Week Day Global, one banking lending manager has labelled the new approach as ‘life changing’, as they have more time to focus on other responsibilities such as childcare and chores. Meanwhile, another participant who works as PR Executive felt that the initial adjustment was genuinely chaotic; however, she and her team are dedicated to adhering to the new way of working. Our followers also agree: 70% felt they’d prefer a four-day schedule as it would improve their work-life balance, mental health (13%) and productivity (16%). The trial is currently being run on a 100:80:100 working pattern, meaning there will be 100% pay for 80% of the time, alongside the exchange for 100% productivity.
Yet, the final decision as to whether participating companies will adhere to the new schedule or switch back won’t be concluded until the end of November.
There are many convincing reasons to think a four-day week can significantly improve productivity and team member wellbeing. Implementing a four-day week involves hurdles that need to be overcome to ensure reduced working hours work for everyone.
The same Qualtrics survey found that 72% admit that a four-day week would result in working more hours on working days to make up for the lost day. Microsoft Japan’s experience bore this problem out: 27% admitted that they work on average four and a half days to catch up on communications with clients.
Senior leaders are also concerned about how working four days a week would impact revenue. 48% thought employees would slack off, and 53% predicted that reducing working days would negatively impact sales.
There is undoubtedly a reason to worry that employees would not stick to working just four days. And concerned senior leaders’ worries aren’t unfounded, but the experience of companies who have successfully implemented a four-day working week suggests that these problems are really down to execution rather than concept.
We recently conducted a survey on LinkedIn asking managers how they felt about the 4-day work week, in which 93% were very optimistic about trying this new approach.
Meanwhile, on our Instagram, 94% of people were prepared to have a four-day working week and felt that they would be much happier as it would improve their work-life balance.
By effectively prioritising and improving time management in the business, it’s clear that maintaining and even exceeding current productivity levels is within reach. The UK trial is still underway, so we can’t say if it will result in the widespread adoption of a shorter working week. Still, the fact that so many companies are willing to accept an alternative as a possibility is a positive step in improving workplace wellbeing for everyone.
At Work. Life, we provide flexible workspaces where wellbeing goes together with productivity. To find the perfect workspace for your team today, book a tour of your favourite location, or contact us to speak to a member of our team.
To gather our in-house poll results, we surveyed 12,300 respondents from the Work.Life Instagram profile and 5,247 respondents from LinkedIn.