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The four-day week: a successful pilot program in the UK

The four-day week: a successful pilot program in the UK

MONTREAL – More than 90% of British businesses that recently tested the four-day week as part of a pilot program were so satisfied they would like to keep the operating system.

Led in particular by researchers from the University of Cambridge and Boston College, the project is set to be the largest ever, with the participation of around sixty companies in the second half of 2022.

Most employees reported less stress, less burnout, and a better work-life balance.

The companies, for their part, indicate that their turnover has remained stable during this period and has increased compared to the same six months of the previous year.

“I think it’s encouraging because we’re going to question the current way of doing things,” commented Professor Jessica Riel from the Department of Organization and Human Resources at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

He believes the results may also have the effect of encouraging companies that are reluctant to take the four-day course.

After gaining popularity in the 1970s, the 1970s fell into obscurity, says Professor Luc Brunet, an expert in work psychology at the University of Montreal. Psychological health in the workplace is increasingly important.

A well-documented labor shortage may also have something to do with it, he adds.

“Companies will compete on intelligence to try to attract as many employees as possible by making their work lives easier,” he said. It is sure to be an environment that effectively makes it possible to try new ways of doing things.

Benefits for all

Seventy-one percent of employees reported feeling less burned out, 39% less stressed, and 48% more satisfied than before the investigation.

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Two-thirds said it was easier to balance work and home responsibilities, and three-quarters said they were more satisfied with their lives. Research indicates less fatigue, improved mental health and better quality sleep.

Businesses also benefited, sometimes reporting a rise of up to a third in their revenue compared to the same half a year earlier.

“Employees are in good shape and they like it, so it will help productivity,” Professor Brunet said.

But to be successful, switching to a four-day week requires some planning. He adds that since we are in an environment of globalization, some employees have to agree to work on Mondays and others on Fridays. It will also be essential that the same tasks can be carried out by different employees so that the company can continue.

But shrinking the 40-hour week to four days isn’t the case, Jessica Real said. “Allowing more flexibility and allowing people to have something else in life besides work, to be able to invest in their hobbies, their family and so on,” he said.

A significant advantage in the context of labor shortages is that the probability of employee turnover has decreased by 57% compared to the same period of the previous year. The number of sick days, meanwhile, fell 65% from the previous year.

There are fields where shorter hours cannot be established because they require workers around the clock, such as hospitals and emergency personnel.

“But in other sectors, it makes it possible to review the working methods, and then to be able to have a simpler lifestyle, with a balance between work, family, private life, which is high, so it is sure to be positive,” said Mrs. Real.

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Research over the years has shown that we need to change the way we operate and the way we work, he continues.

“We need to pay more attention to the health and well-being of our workers because everyone wins,” he concluded.