4-day work week trial finds tangible mental health benefits

4-day work week trial finds tangible mental health benefits
Courtesy: FatCamera | E+ Via Getty Images

In the UK, 61 organisations made a commitment to a 20 per cent decrease in working hours for all employees during a six-month period beginning in June 2022. Additionally, the clear majority of businesses kept their full-time productivity goals. With 71 per cent of employees self-reporting lower levels of "burnout" and 39 per cent stating they were less stressed, data from the largest four-day working week trial in the world show dramatically lower rates of stress and illness in the workforce.  

There was a 65 per cent reduction in sick days, and a 57 per cent fall in the number of staff leaving participating companies, compared to the same period the previous year. Company revenue barely changed during the trial period – even increasing marginally by 1.4 per cent on average. 

In a report of the findings presented to UK lawmakers, some 92 per cent of companies that took part in the UK pilot programme (56 out of 61) say they intend to continue with the four-day working week, with 18 companies confirming the change as permanent. 


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Research for the UK trials was conducted by a team of social scientists from the University of Cambridge, working with academics from Boston College in the US and the think tank Autonomy. The trial was organised by 4 Day Week Global in conjunction with the UK's 4 Day Week Campaign

Companies from across the UK took part, with around 2,900 employees dropping a day of work. Organisations involved in the trial ranged from online retailers and financial service providers to animation studios and a local fish-and-chip shop. Other industries represented include consultancy, housing, IT, skincare, recruitment, hospitality, marketing, and healthcare. 

Researchers surveyed employees throughout the trial to gauge the effects of having an extra day of free time. Self-reported levels of anxiety and fatigue decreased across workforces, while mental and physical health improved. 

Many survey respondents said they found it easier to balance work with both family and social commitments: 60 per cent of employees found an increased ability to combine paid work with care responsibilities, and 62 per cent reported it easier to combine work with social life. 
"Before the trial, many questioned whether we would see an increase in productivity to offset the reduction in working time – but this is exactly what we found," said sociologist Prof Brendan Burchell, who led the University of Cambridge side of the research. 


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"Many employees were very keen to find efficiency gains themselves. Long meetings with too many people were cut short or ditched completely. Workers were much less inclined to kill time, and actively sought out technologies that improved their productivity," he said. 
Dr David Frayne, a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, said, "We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into realistic policy, with multiple benefits." 

Joe Ryle, Director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, calls the results a "major breakthrough moment" for the idea of shorter working weeks. "Across a wide variety of different sectors of the economy, these incredible results show that the four-day week actually works." 

In addition to the survey work, designed in collaboration with colleagues including Prof Juliet Schor from Boston College, the Cambridge team conducted a large number of extensive interviews with employees and company CEOs before, during and after the six-month trial. 


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