international employment law firm alliance L&E Global
United Kingdom

UK: Four-day week trial: Study – one year on

Authors: Heidi Watson, Ruth Bonino, Corinna Harris and Sophie Jackson

A follow-up report on the four-day working week by Autonomy, Making It Stick: The UK Four Day Week Pilot One Year On, has found that 89% of the 61 organisations that took part in the trial in 2022 have continued with the policy and 51% (31 organisations) have made the policy permanent.

Almost half of those that took part in the trial (28 organisations) took part in this study. It found that the benefits of a four-day working week have been sustained following the end of the trial:

  • 82% of organisations reported positive impacts on staff well-being
  • 50% saw positive effects on reducing staff turnover and 32% said the policy had noticeably improved recruitment
  • 100% of managers and CEOs said the policy had a “positive” or “very positive” impact on their organisation
  • 87% of staff survey respondents reported the policy had a positive impact in their work as well, which rose to 91% among managers

Interestingly, organisations that made their policy conditional (i.e., conditional on individuals or teams meeting certain expectations) had less success implementing a four-day working week. This was due to increased stress caused by the targets, resentment and a lack of predictability, meaning difficulties for staff to plan their time off, which often included childcare and caring responsibilities. The report notes that transparency, clarity, and staff input on these conditional policies are key to mitigate feelings of inequity among staff.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-House Counsel

The positive outcomes recorded in the study indicate that the benefits of a shorter working week are not short-lived.

The report notes that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so organisations need to design their own model, pilot parameters, and the supporting measures that come with it. While issues should be considered at the trial design and preparation phase, the pilot period is also an opportunity to tweak the model and make adjustments to find the model that will work best for the business.

The study also found that 58% of the public expects the four-day week to be the standard way of working by 2030.