Four-Day Workweeks Make People Happier, More Productive, Study Shows

 

[Editor’s Note: We know from our research on the happiest people in the world that they tend to work fewer than 40 hours per week. They tend to show up at their jobs, get their work done, and go home as soon as they can. Since they work an average of about 37 or fewer hours a week, it leaves them time to participate in club activities, cook with their families, exercise, or do other things more gratifying than just doing more work.]

The verdict is in on the world’s largest four-day workweek trial. Unsurprisingly, the global pilot program had a successful turnout. Non-profit organization 4-Day Week Global collaborated on this trial with researchers at Cambridge University, University College Dublin, and Boston College. The results favored ditching the standard 40-hour workweek for a leaner 32-hour schedule, suggesting that it’s a good business move. 

Global program organizers revealed that most of the study’s participants—which included 33 companies and 903 laborers—supported sticking to the new model after completing a six-month trial. Twenty-seven of those companies responded to a follow-up survey thereafter, along with 495 employees, expressing whether they had plans on reverting back to the five-day workweek. All participating companies—a majority of which were based in the United States and Ireland—voted “no” with roughly 97% of the workers. 

Company survey respondents also gave a 9 out of 10 rating on their overall experience with the trial, based on performance and productivity. “By providing employees with an additional day off, they may feel more energized and motivated to complete their work during the four days they are in the office,” says Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D., a management and leadership consultant and the chair of Utah Valley University’s Organizational Leadership department. 

By providing employees with an additional day off, they may feel more energized and motivated to complete their work during the four days they are in the office. —@JonWestover,Ph.D., Utah Valley University Click To Tweet

The employees provided overwhelmingly positive feedback in the survey as well, reporting lower stress, burnout, and fatigue levels as well as improvements in physical and mental health. They made no mention of increased intensity with their workloads, according to Juliet Schor, one of the trial’s lead researchers and a professor of sociology at Boston College. 

Greater health and happiness weren’t the only two outcomes of this trial. Companies even saw a 38% spike in company earnings compared to the previous year. 

Greater health and happiness weren’t the only two outcomes of this trial. Companies even saw a 38% spike in company earnings compared to the previous year. Click To Tweet

A happier work environment = higher profits 

4 Day Work Global expanded on the four-day workweek study in the U.K. and collected more data in favor of the new arrangement. Based on their findings, 15% of the 3,000 participating employees confirmed that no dollar amount would motivate them to return to the five-day workweek. 

For the 60+ participating companies, profits soared 35% from the prior year while resignations declined. After the pilot study, 56 of those companies leaned toward enacting the four-day workweek in their own businesses while two companies agreed to extend the trial. 

The four-day workweek: The new way forward?

How does a permanent three-day weekend sound to you? For those who have dreamed of a four-day workweek with Fridays off, while still receiving 100% of their pay, this successful pilot study could spark a major shift in the global workforce. The trial’s participants experienced such favorable outcomes that some supervisors decided to continue testing shortened employee workweeks. 

This news comes at the height of the “Great Resignation” onset by the COVID-19 pandemic. As younger generations take over the workforce and majorly reject the idea of a 9-to-5, the traditional work schedule, and required attendance in-office, a much-needed shift in office culture is practically bursting at the seams after years of it brewing underneath the surface.

Non-participating companies have already begun to implement this change, including web development agency Chelsea and Rachel Co. Rachel Saul, the founder, had this to say: “So far our internal results are amazing…we have billed more billable hours in four-day weeks without working overtime than in five day weeks…team mental health is high, creativity to problem solve is not as stressed…lots of positivity!”

The key to success? A smooth implementation

There’s only one potential drawback with the four-day workweek, as told by Westover: inconsistent productivity levels. “If employees are required to complete the same amount of work in a shorter period of time, they may feel overwhelmed and stressed, leading to lower quality work and a decrease in overall productivity,” he said. 

Chelsea and Rachel Co. founder Rachel Saul also feared this outcome during the initial stages of implementation. “Remote work is already a challenge to manage well…if employees are not self-starters or proactive planners it could fail…those not aligned in management could operate out of fear causing internal stress and pressure,” she said. Thus, it might be wise to roll out a gradual implementation of this new schedule to test the waters.

Westover suggests that this approach will “allow time for employees to adjust and ensure a smooth transition.” According to Chelsea and Rachel Co. founder Rachel Saul, this new work arrangement, fortunately, presents more pros than cons. “[Our team has] more time to recuperate from a strenuous work week, [and it] creates better productivity during the week. [It also leads to] happier and more creative teamwork, [and] a way to provide more benefits and value with employment that actually gives time back,” she said. 

 

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