4-Day Work Week Study: Short Week Increases Happiness, Life Satisfaction
A new study confirms once again what many researchers and companies are coming to realize about a shorter work week.
Results are in once again from the world’s largest four-day workweek trial piloted by social scientists from the University of Cambridge, and they’re practically unanimous. After a six-month trial of a four-day workweek, 95% of participating companies say they will stick with the schedule going forward.
Organized by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global in partnership with the UK’s 4 Day Week Campaign, the trial started in June 2022. Researchers followed almost 3,000 employees from 61 companies across the U.K. for more than six months as their employers transitioned from a traditional five-day week to a shortened week without a pay cut, looking to see how shortening the week might effect worker wellbeing and productivity and how a shorter work week might impact the economies around the companies.
The trial was an inarguable success, with 71% of workers reporting decreased feelings of burnout and 39% of workers reporting they were less stressed than before they shortened their weeks. There was a 65% decrease in sick days and a 57% decrease in the total attrition rate compared to the same time period during the previous year.
Employees also reported an increase in work-life balance — 60% said it was easier to work and care for dependents and 62% said it was easier to have a social life. And best of all for employers, productivity did not decrease, and there was a slight profit gain — around 1.4% on average for the companies involved.
“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,” sociologist Prof Brendan Burchell, one of the research team leaders, said in a statement. “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.”
Successful trials of the four-day work week have taken place practically everywhere, including the U.S. and Canada, Iceland, and New Zealand, with many companies continuing to use the four-day week model at the conclusion of the trial due to positive results.
Other studies have shown just what this pilot program found: that a truncated week contributes to employee well-being and decreases symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, and burnout while maintaining or improving company productivity and profit margins.
Importantly for parents, parents of young children also reported a decrease in childcare costs, while many of those in the study with older kids said they enjoyed a bit of alone time on their extra day off while the kids were at school. Overwhelmingly, respondents with or without kids said they used the extra day provided by the four day workweek to take care of the minutiae of everyday life — grocery shopping, errands, and chores, which they said opened them up for actual relaxation or leisure activities on weekends.
Many employers in the trial reported a number of communications from other businesses within their field asking how they could transition their own staffs to a shortened week.
“Almost everyone we interviewed described being overwhelmed with questions from other organizations in their industry that are interested in following suit,” Burchell said.
“When we ask employers, a lot of them are convinced the four-day week is going to happen. It has been uplifting for me personally, just talking to so many upbeat people over the last six months. A four-day week means a better working life and family life for so many people.”