Companies that participated in a four-day workweek experiment have further reduced the amount of time employees are on the clock six months after the study’s end.
The companies also continue to see increased productivity and benefits, according to new data from the pilot program.
The non-profit 4 Day Week Global found that companies’ average working hours continued to fall after the six-month pilot program ended in February.
For companies who took part in the experiment, the average four-day workweek started from a baseline of 38 hours. At the end of the trial, average weekly hours totalled 33.85. In the intervening months, they’ve dropped to 32.97, down almost a full hour from the six-month mark.
“Crucially, this reduction was not achieved via increased work intensity, where people had to speed up and cram five days of tasks into four. Instead, they operated more efficiently and continued to improve these capabilities as the year progressed,” Dale Whelehan, CEO at 4 Day Week Global, said in a statement.
Immediately after the pilot program ended, 92% of the companies indicated they planned to continue with the truncated work schedule because the benefits were so clear. Only two companies involved in the project said they would “definitely not” continue with the shorter workweek.
A better work-life balance for workers
According to the updated data, workers remained highly positive about the change over the past six months, continuing to give the change a nine out of 10. Self-rated physical and mental health measures have also improved since the beginning of the study in 2022, with employees also reporting better work-life balance.
The study, performed by the non-profit and several universities, was the largest of its kind; it involved 61 companies and about 3,000 workers. Including a previous study of companies in US and Ireland, a total of 91 companies with about 3,500 workers completed pilot programs testing out a shorter workweek.
During the study, businesses decreased their weekly schedules by six hours on average, from about 41 to 35 hours per week per employee. Businesses that agreed to provide data on their results reported an 8% increase in revenue during the trial period — and a 38% increase from the same period a year earlier, according to the researchers.
"Almost all companies that move to a four-day week do three main things: radically shorten and reform meetings; use technology more thoughtfully and mindfully; and redesign the workday to build in distinct periods for focused work, meetings and social time,” Whelehan said in an email response to Computerworld. “These are all things we assist companies with on our pilot program, ahead of launching their trials."
Studies show that the average worker loses two to three hours each day to badly structured meetings, poor technology implementations and simple distractions, according to Whelehan. “So, the four-day week is already here, we just can’t see it because it’s buried underneath these outdated practices,” he said.
Kickstarter, the US-based crowdfunding platform provider, launched its four-day week study in 2021, and found the most “profound impact was on employee retention.
“We’ve seen very few people choose to depart the company since the implementation of our four-day week," Jon Leland, chief strategy officer at Kickstarter, said in a statement. "This has dramatically improved our ability to meet objectives and key results every quarter. While we were lucky to hit 70% prior to our pilot, we now hit more than 90%.
“It’s easy to think that a company might have to sacrifice some ambition to implement a four-day week, but we have only increased the scale of our ambition since its adoption,” Leland said.
According to a 2022 global survey of 3,600 employees by Gartner Research, a four-day workweek appears to be the most popular attractor among “new and innovative benefits to recruit talent."
Additionally, 63% of candidates selected “four-day workweek for the same pay” as a top five benefit that would attract them to a job (that number jumps to 74% for respondents in the US), according to Gartner.
“Employees now see themselves working at Kickstarter in two years at nearly twice the rate as before our pilot,” Leland said. “Relatedly, employee engagement is up by 50%. People are more energised and dedicated to their work. They are using their extra time to pursue creative projects, take care of their families, or rest, allowing them to come to work each week with more energy and creativity.”
Micah Remley, CEO at workplace management software maker Robin Powered, said he views 4 Day Work Week’s new data with skepticism – especially in the context of technology and other innovation-type workers. While task-oriented jobs might have room for more efficiency, knowledge workers can’t afford to have their hours slashed and still produce at the same rate, he said.
“I’ve been following that research some,” Remley said. "If I’m in a customer service role and my job is to just answer a certain number of calls per hour, or if I’m in a copy writing job and I have to write a certain number of hours a week, there’s probably some dead time in there. If I can do it more efficiently in there, that’s what the four-day workweek is.
“In those cases,” he continued, “I’m getting rid of dead time and I’m condensing it down to four days a week and getting just as much done. I’m happier as an employee and the employer got just as much done. That’s their thesis."
Conversely, if a software developer’s week is reduced from five to four days, their productivity is bound to suffer because in an innovation role, time is often spent brainstorming ideas with teams, Remley argued.
“I’m not actively coding a project, but I’m working things out. I may not have really produced anything that Thursday afternoon, but man lightning struck Thursday night, and then Friday morning I could write that piece of code in a super articulate way,” Remley said. “That’s why I’m saying I skeptical that four-day workweeks apply to creative industries and innovation economies.”