Workers love the 4-day week. A pilot program finds bosses love it too

The four-day work week is… working.

That’s the message emerging from closely watched companies moving to four-day work weeks in pilot programs by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global. A survey on Tuesday found that 78% of leaders at more than 70 UK companies that moved to four-day working hours say their transition was good or “smooth”. Only 2% found it difficult. Most (88%) say four-day schedules work well.

The idea of ​​a four-day work week is no joke. California lawmakers recently considered, then scrapped, plans for a statewide four-day work week for some employees. A survey by Gartner Inc. found that a shorter week was a preferred recruitment and retention strategy.

Six-month pilot programs are currently underway with more than 180 companies in half a dozen countries. Employers typically move to four-day, 32-hour schedules (with variations by role and industry), without a pay cut. In the UK pilot, executives from companies with a total of 3,300 employees were surveyed halfway through. The program is run in conjunction with the 4 Day Week campaign and think tank Autonomy, along with a data collection partnership of researchers from Boston College, Cambridge University and Oxford University.

Almost all participating UK organizations (86%) said they were likely to keep four-day timetables after the pilots finish in November. Almost half, 49%, said productivity had improved, while 46% said it had remained stable.

“It’s very encouraging to see,” said Joe O’Connor, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, who expected organizations to show more consistent performance. “We would see it as a huge productivity hit if productivity stayed the same.”

Pilot studies continue in the UK, US, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Canada.

Not all organizations that start testing complete it, O’Connor said. About 1 in 5 entrepreneurs quit, more than half during the pre-planning stage. Executives who have conducted the pilot studies say they face the dual challenge of exceeding staff and industry norms of five days along with the difficult task of eliminating and improving work processes to achieve the same result in four days

When companies drop out in the planning phase, “The main reason is that leadership overthinks and gets cold feet,” O’Connor said. “They start trying to fix every possible issue or problem before they run their test, which is impossible, because so many of the productivity gains and process improvements are team-based and team-led.”

He also reports difficulties between companies with cultures of mistrust between leaders and employees.

“They think they have an open, bottom-up decision-making style, but in practice, that may not be the case,” he said.

Growing pains are part of the process.

“It wasn’t a walk in the park at first, but there’s no major change,” said Nicci Russell, CEO of Waterwise, a nonprofit focused on reducing water use. “We’ve all had to work on it – things like annual leave can make it difficult to fit everything in. But the team is really happy and we’re all definitely loving the extra day out of the office.”

Once on four-day schedules, struggling companies are often very small and in fields that require five- or seven-day shift coverage, requiring precise scheduling among a small number of personnel. Gift company Bookishly, for example, continues to play games with staff during work hours.

Organizations also abandon truncated agenda efforts when unexpected changes occur, such as new leadership or financial changes. Participants in the UK trial range across a range of sectors, including education, media, hospitality and healthcare, and include Charity Bank, supply chain transparency company Everledger, the Secure Digital Exchange customer communication platform and the Royal Society of Biology.

O’Connor has learned that when companies no longer need him, things are good.

“They really need us in the early stages,” he said. “When the demand for contact with us goes down, it means they’re well on their way to making this work.”

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