The majority of UK companies that participated in the world’s largest-ever four-day working week trial have opted to make the policy a permanent fixture, according to recent research.

Conducted by thinktank Autonomy and researchers from the University of Cambridge, the University of Salford, and Boston College in the US, the study revealed that out of the 61 organisations partaking in a six-month pilot in 2022, 54 (89%) continue to implement the four-day workweek a year later, with 31 (51%) making the change permanent.

The trial, which involved a 31.6-hour working week (reduced by an average of 6.6 hours), showcased significant positive outcomes.

The report indicated that 55 percent of project managers and CEOs experienced a beneficial impact on their organisations, citing improvements in staff well-being (82%), reduced staff turnover (50%), enhanced job recruitment (32%), and improved overall productivity (46%).

Juliet Schor, the report’s author and professor of sociology at Boston College, emphasised the “real and long-lasting” effects of the four-day week, particularly in terms of physical and mental health and work-life balance.

Not a universal solution

However, Matthew Percival, a director at the Confederation of British Industry, cautioned against viewing the four-day week as a universal solution, stating it may not be cost-effective for all industries. He emphasised the importance of considering alternatives, such as increased pay, pensions, or paid parental leave.

The study found that successful implementation of the four-day week involved clear communication and collaboration between staff and management, with carefully designed policies adapting work processes.

While the report highlighted persistent benefits, it acknowledged challenges faced by some companies, including dealing with clients and stakeholders unaccustomed to four-day weeks and uneven policy implementation causing staff resentment.

The Scottish government recently launched a four-day working week trial for certain public services, with Autonomy urging the Westminster government to implement policies supporting wider adoption, including the right for workers to request a four-day week without loss of pay, a public sector trial, and funding for private sector transition.

Positive experiences

Organisations such as Citizens Advice Gateshead and the Royal Society of Biology expressed positive experiences with the four-day week, noting improved employee well-being, retention, and productivity.

As the debate on the four-day workweek gains momentum, businesses and employees continue to explore innovative working arrangements, with some calling for better management training to effectively implement flexible working policies.

While a government spokesperson stated there are no plans to introduce a four-day working week at the national level, changes to flexible working legislation are expected in April, allowing employees to request flexible working from the first day of a new job.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.