Earlier this year, a pilot program was launched in the UK to explore the viability of a four-day work week. Over a period of 6 months, 72 businesses across industries have agreed to allow their employees one paid day off each week, making operational adjustments when necessary but otherwise carrying on with business as usual.

Although the trial has yet to conclude, the results of an early survey conducted halfway through the pilot reveal largely positive experiences among participants. Of the 41 companies who responded to the survey, slightly less than half reported improved rates of productivity, and an overwhelming 86% of respondents stated that they were “likely,” and even “extremely likely,” to maintain the four-day model after the trial period has expired.

To better understand the potential benefits of a reduced work week, Talent.com recently conducted our own research, in which we surveyed 1,300 workers in the UK on the subject. In addition to widespread support for the idea among employees, the results suggest the four-day work week may even be an unexpected answer to some of the most pressing social and economic issues of our time, from mental health and diversity and inclusion, to rising inflation and a looming recession.

Making Up for Lost Time

One common objection to a reduced work week is the perceived risk of a loss in productivity. But between the results of the UK pilot’s survey and responses from our own participants, this risk seems to be blown out of proportion.

More specifically, employees appear ready to exchange an “above and beyond” mentality and work ethic for that extra day off. If it meant gaining a better work-life balance and improving their mental health and wellbeing, the majority of our respondents (56%) said they would be prepared to work longer hours within a four-day work week, with many stating they would even work up to 10 hours per day.

Given the ongoing mental health crisis accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, if the four-day work week has the potential to make significant improvements to the well-being of employees without compromising productivity, exploring this model further seems like a no-brainer.

A “Ripple Effect” of Positive Outcomes

While our survey revealed a willingness to work more hours in exchange for a reduced work week, it also revealed the one thing that workers are not currently ready to negotiate with: Their salaries. In addition to 64 percent of respondents stating they would be unwilling to take a pay cut, an overwhelming 76 percent said that yearly salary increases would remain a top priority, a four-day work week or not.

Given rising inflation, this result should come as no real surprise. Admittedly, however, increasing salaries in an inflationary environment might only make the problem worse. In this sense, allowing employees to have an extra day off while maintaining existing pay rates could be a worthwhile compromise. Additionally, fewer working days with equal pay also has the potential to bolster diversity and inclusion, helping the careers of those who require more time to keep up with primary caregiver duties and who struggle to meet related costs.

As for the broader economy, if a recession in the UK cannot be avoided, allowing employees additional leisure time could result in more money spent on consumer goods and services. This will ultimately be necessary to keep rates of unemployment down as the economy resets, and an ability to “soften the landing,” so to speak, will be critical for keeping widespread financial hardship to a minimum.

Overall, the more data that emerges related to the success of the four-day work week in practice, the more businesses will need to take the option under serious consideration. And while businesses will almost certainly face a new set of challenges when making the transition, the potential ripple effect of positive outcomes appears increasingly worth an initial period of adjustment.




Noura Dadzie is a recruitment expert for Talent.com





Dr Achim Preuss is Chief Technology Officer at international talent measurement and assessment specialist cut-e, which is part of Aon’s Assessment Solutions. cut-e and Aon undertake 30 million assessments each year in 90 countries and 40 languages.