Less Stress, Reduced Levels of Burnout: Study Confirms Benefits of Four-Day Work Week
A new study in the United Kingdom has confirmed the benefits—for both employees and employers—of a four-day work week.
Researchers from independent research company Autonomy have found undeniable benefits for both employers and employees of a four-day work week. In what is thought to be the world’s largest four-day working week trial to date, researchers surveyed 61 companies and 2,900 workers in the United Kingdom from June to December 2022.
Of the 61 companies that participated, 56, or about 92 percent, have said they are continuing with the four-day week, with 18 confirming the policy is a permanent change.
“Some of the most extensive benefits of shorter working hours were found in employees’ well-being,” according to the executive summary of the study. “‘Before and after’ data shows that 39 percent of employees were less stressed, and 71 percent had reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial. Likewise, levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved.”
A majority of employees (54 percent) that participated in the study also said it was easier to balance work with household jobs and that employees were also more satisfied with their household finances, relationships, and how their time was being managed. About 60 percent of employees found an increased ability to combine paid work with care responsibilities, while 62 percent reported it easier to combine work with social life.
Even companies’ attrition rate saw improvements with the four-day work week, with the number of staff leaving participating companies dropping by 57 percent over the trial period.
The benefits of shorter working hours were also felt on the employer side, with companies’ revenue, for instance, staying broadly the same over the trial period, and even rising 1.4 percent on average, weighted by company size, across respondent organizations.
“When compared to a similar period from previous years, organizations reported revenue increases of 35 percent on average—which indicates healthy growth during this period of working time reduction,” the study said.
Proposals for a four-day work week in the Philippines are not new. Such arrangements were common for government and private organizations during the Gulf War crisis in the early 1990s and during the global financial crisis in 2008. Last year, then-acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua suggested a compressed working week, with employees working fewer days (from five to four) but for two extra hours each day (from eight to 10).
Former President Noynoy Aquino directed the Department of Labor and Employment to study the viability of a four-day work week at the start of his term in 2010, while Representative Winston Castelo filed House Bill No. 5237, entitled “An Act Mandating Four-Day Work Week in Public and Private Sectors, requiring Thereby Ten Hours of Work Daily and for other Purposes” in 2011.
Some government offices in the country have already started this system, with employees in the Senate, for example, and those working in government offices in Iloilo City working just four days a week.
In a policy brief published by the DOLE’s Institute for Labor Studies in 2011, previous studies conducted in 2009 concluded that “compressed workweek scheme was used by some establishments with fairly beneficial results.”
“Compressed workweek as a flexible work arrangement in certain establishments, when implemented solely and not complemented by reduced working hours or forced leaves, did not reduce the income of the workers, allowed establishments to maximize human resources while allowing both management and workers to have more days spent with family,” the brief said.
The four-day work week system is being rolled out in different parts of the world, in private companies and government offices. Belgium, for instance recently gave employees the option of working just four day instead of the mandatory five. And earlier this year, the United Arab Emirates became the first country in the world to implement a 4.5 working week for employees in the public sector.
And in the UK study, about 15 percent of employees who participated liked the arrangement so much they said that “no amount of money would induce them to accept a five-day schedule over the four-day week to which they were now accustomed.”