Or is it rather a four-day work gimmick?
News agencies have reported on the results of the four-day work week trial and apparently it’s been a resounding success.
A total of 61 British companies adopted a four-day week for the second half of 2022, with almost 3,000 staff involved and has been trialled for six months.
The landmark research project run in by the University of Cambridge and Boston College has found that, on average, businesses adopting a four-day working pattern increased their revenues by more than a third. It’s also been said that it improved happiness and lower stress levels among the participating staff.
At least 56 businesses said they would continue with the programme, with 18 saying they will adopt the new policy permanently. Only three opted to scrap the scheme at the end of the pilot.
It comes amid a fierce debate about how to solve Britain’s long-running productivity crisis.
Supporters of the four-day week have claimed that has incentivised staff to do more in a shorter period of time but a previous study has suggested that it can in fact make employees less productive and could tip staff towards burnout.
According to the Cambridge study, businesses generated 1.4pc more revenue at the end of a six-month trial than they did at the start.
But when scientists compared the six-month window with a distinct and comparable half-year span they found the four-day work week saw an increase in revenue of 34.5pc.
Campaigners and academics will present the findings to MPs at an event in the House of Commons today as they claim this is a “major breakthrough” for productivity and the way we work.
The event is being chaired by Labour MP and former shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Peter Dowd, who introduced the 32-Hour Working Week Bill in October.
The bill which would reduce the maximum working week from 48 hours to 32 hours, paving the way for a four-day week.
Employers had to make sure there was no reduction in wages for staff who took part in trialling a 32-hour week.
At least 56 out of the 61 firms which took part said they plan to continue with the four-day working week, including based in London.
The research carried out based on the trial has revealed that the number of sick days taken by the 2,900 staff fell by about two-thirds, with 39% of employees saying they were less stressed.
Marcus Beaver, UKI Country Leader at Alight Solutions commented: “We knew that the four-day work week would increase employee happiness and reduce burnout – now we have the proof that it has tangible business benefits. It’s clear that it’s not about cramming more work in fewer days. It’s about producing better results with the days we’re given. Companies depend on their staff, and with boosted productivity and profits, the system clearly benefits employees and employers.
“The workforce landscape is changing, and companies must now implement what works best moving forward, or risk being in the past.”
Laura Baldwin, President at O’Reilly commented: “When it comes to work schedules, what people really care about is flexibility. It’s not about four days or five. Either is still very prescriptive and doesn’t account for the varied reasons many employees want flexibility – for example, to manage five-day-a-week school pick up hours. For the burnt out, overworked employees who went above and beyond during the pandemic, fewer hours, worked flexibly across five days is likely to mean more than a four–day slog.
“For businesses, the four–day week can also create complicated scheduling nightmares – especially for smaller organisations. There needs to be more effort invested in creating real cultures of flexibility, which can best serve employees without forgetting the needs of customers.
“Quite simply, customers expect (at least) a five-day-a-week service and until every organisation moves to four days as standard there will be a very hard balancing act to cut to four. Dropping the ball on customer experience to pay lip service to flexibility is a losing strategy for all.
“If you’re thinking about a four–day workweek, use it as a prompt to ask, what is it that you are really trying to solve? Are you trying to create a shortcut to flexibility? Will this rather drastic move really create the flexibility your employees want? Will it enable work-life balance, but also get the work done? Could it be you are looking for a sticking plaster to bigger issues? Rather than embracing trust and flexibility for your teams, are you just seeking another way to exert control behind a facade of a four–day gimmick?”