back to article Results are in for biggest 4-day work week trial ever: 92% sticking with it

The massive British trial of a shortened four-day work week is over – and it's food for thought for companies battling to attract and keep high value employees as one of the side effects was a large drop in staff attrition. Most of the companies involved said they would continue offering a shorter week. Of the 61 companies …

  1. Mark White

    What day wouldn't you work?

    I do a 4 day week with Wednesday off and think it is great.

    1. jmch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      If it's regular I would also go for Wednesdays, though ideally would be flexible enough to take the occasional Friday instead to make use of long weekends eg on Bank Holidays

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

        I wonder if it would be more productive to have an uninterrupted four day week or whether keeping the "what was I working on on Friday?" effect at bay by having a two day weekend plus Wednesday.

        I assume the study covered this.

        1. Binraider Silver badge

          Un-interrupted would definitely be better. A 3-day weekend is also a whole lot more useful than a random day midweek.

    2. Snake Silver badge
      Pint

      I've been working 4-day work weeks for almost 14 years now and would never go back to 5 day. Just not interested, no matter how much more lucre it may theoretically bring me. As the rest of the world considers the 4-day week, I've only been left to think "What has taken you so long??".

      I do 4 days with Monday off, so I get 3-day weekends. I'd rather be on my motorcycle than just about anyplace else on planet Earth, so it's great.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        I'm definitely in favor of this for those who want it, but since I spend my weekends working on the houses and grounds anyway, or engaged in other productive pursuits, I'm personally not interested.

        I generally end up doing some employer-related work most days, weekends included, because I enjoy it and it's nice to take a hour or so break from more physically-demanding labor. If I'm not doing one of those, I'm probably reading, but unlike in my earlier years I find I can't sit and read for more than a couple of hours at a time. And most days I get out for a bit of a walk or bike ride, but again that's only an hour or so (generally; once in a while I'll do a day hike).

        But that's my preference, and for most folks it seems a 4-day work week would be more efficient and give people more personal time without hurting productivity.

    3. onefang

      My four day work week is Tuesday until Friday. Since I live in the future waiting for the rest of the world to catch up, er I mean Eastern Australia, during my Monday it's still the weekend somewhere in the world.

      This is my form of semi-retirement. If four days catches on in the rest of the world, I'll have to reduce my work week to three days. Tuesday to Thursday sounds good.

      Also, this being the land of the long weekend, most holidays are moved to the nearest Monday or Friday. If they are on Monday I take Tuesday off.

    4. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Wednesday feels like the ideal day as it breaks the week up enough to make being sent away on business travel a lot less practical. Taking time out for travel you'd not get long enough at the other end to make the trip worth the cost or effort.

      After a long period of proving we could run this business via remote meetings, I'm finding it incredibly frustrating that manglement are falling back to the old ways of expecting business travel to be the norm...putting a big Wednesday-sized obstacle in the way would be a useful way of showing that remote meetings should still be a used in preference to travel.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Interesting. I used to do a fair bit of business travel, but years ago my employer started cutting back, and I'm not seeing any signs of it resuming for me, at least.

        I actually wouldn't mind a trip to HQ every couple of years or so. Going out there for a week was a bit of a lark, seeing folks in person again, wandering around a foreign area, and whatnot.

    5. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      I don't enjoy Sunday evenings much because tomorrow's a work day, so it would have to be Monday.

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Happy

        I don't enjoy Sunday evenings much because tomorrow's a work day, so it would have to be Monday.

        >>>

        I don't enjoy Monday evenings much because tomorrow's a work day, so it would have to be Tuesday.

        recursively repeat until you achieve a 0-day work-week

    6. 4a43

      I work a 4 day week but still do 36+ hours a week. I find it nice. I have a Tuesday off usually but can work round other commitments.

      It is nice as can get things sorted at home in normal working hours - getting appointments for things is so much easier than in an evening/weekend.

      I found the article strange to say 4 days and no hours change, I'm sure everyone would be pleased if they are paid for a 37.5 hour work week (5 days) but only did 30 hours (4 days) of actual work. Seems a good deal.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "I found the article strange to say 4 days and no hours change, I'm sure everyone would be pleased if they are paid for a 37.5 hour work week (5 days) but only did 30 hours (4 days) of actual work. Seems a good deal."

        From the article "The crucial point of the pilot, in which 3,000 UK-based employees participated, was that no one's salaries changed, nor were they required to work extended hours, the so-called "4×10 schedule" (four 10-hour shifts) tested by Atlassian and others."

        I think there may be different trials being referred to here or different companies trialled different ways of achieving a 4 day week.

        Back in the day, when I was late teens and working at the local swimming pool, we switched to a 4 day week with 2x10 + 2x9.5 (39 hour week was standard then). It was great. Closed on Sundays and about about every 6 weeks, the shift pattern meant days off were Fri, Sat & Sun followed the next weeks pattern of Mon, Tues, Sun so almost a week off every 6 weeks :-)

    7. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      I've been on 4x10, working Thursday through Sunday, for more than 10 years now. 10 hours vs 8 hours is barely noticeable, but 3 days off is wonderful. It helps that I work in a 24x7 shop full of people mentally locked into wanting the weekends off on their 5 day workweeks. My being willing to work both weekend days takes pressure off The Boss where coverage is concerned.

      For me, having 3 weekdays off per week lets me take care of business when business is open. Shopping is easier as well, as instead of being in the shops on the weekend with thousands of others it's just me and a small bunch of pensioners. It's rare when I have to wait in line to check out.

      If they did switch to 4x8s, I'd see of they would let me do 3x11s. I wouldn't notice the extra hour (I already actually work 11 for a bit of overtime) so again, no difference to me on the workday but the extra day off would be stellar - and I'd Thursdays off.

  2. wiggers

    Well...

    "Having a shorter work week apparently led to more efficient meetings"

    Just cutting out time-wasting meetings probably saves at least a day a week! No drop in productivity.

    1. Plest Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Well...

      The key is to train people to be prepared to host and take part. Most of the time it's simply call a meeting for the sake of it, no!

      You..

      Have a meeting for a reason.

      Plan ahead.

      Tell people what the meeting is about.

      Limit the scope to just what's needed.

      Draw up 2-3 points for discussion as starting point.

      You make sure you stop the meeting once everyone has said their piece!

      Dragging out pointless meetings 'cos Fred couldn't get X done but Janet did but then forgot the other part that Harry needed. FFS!!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        Worse - somebody heard about agile and "standups" so now we have an entire company standup where the software people have to listen to what accounting and sales are working on everyday

        1. wiggers

          Re: Well...

          Yes, we used to have lengthy "team" meetings every week where we'd have to report what we were working on and what progress had been made. Problem was that the "team" were all working on completely unconnected projects and the "progress" was never compared with a programme nor even what was reported the previous week.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        Ie. all the rules of effective meeting that were being taught in the 1980's and probably decades earlier...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of the other 8%, responses ranged from "What! Every week!" to "There's no way they'll get me working harder!"

    Bring back the 3-day week... erm... the Winter of Discontent and the ghost of Ted Heath... well we're nearly there

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @A/C

      The winter of discontent was circa 1978 - 1979. It was Callaghan who was Prime minister not Heath.

  4. Altrux

    I've done it for years, since my son was born. Though on 80% pay, not 100% - am I a sucker? But companies large and small are quite open to the idea now, so it's not really been an issue. I love it, and it brings life back into balance again. The cost is minimal (assuming 80%) during the childcare years anyway, and I use my day off to do all my chores and appointments, and extra things like helping with a code club at the school. Never going back to 5 days!

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      The comparison is 4x10 rather than 5x8.

      If you're doing 4x8 compared to the rest of the company's 5x8, then I would not call you a sucker for being on the same rate per contracted hour as somebody who works the full 5 days for 100% pay.

  5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    What's it called ?

    There is some sociology/management law that says that any sort of study of workplace changes always shows an improvement because people know they are being studied.

    1. Natalie Gritpants Jr

      Re: What's it called ?

      SSSSSHHHHHH, don't give the PHBs any wriggle room

    2. GBE

      Re: What's it called ?

      There is some sociology/management law that says that any sort of study of workplace changes always shows an improvement because people know they are being studied.

      It's called the "Western Electric Effect" or the "Hawthorne Effect"

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect

    3. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: What's it called ?

      It's also a new thing for most participants, so there is an 'excitement' effect. It will be interesting to see the results once it has been running for several years.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    Lazy Gobshites.

    Get back to work.

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: Lazy Gobshites.

      Sorry dude. Folks missed the sign. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------^

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lazy Gobshites.

        Your inability to use a computer really does make me think you are Jacob Rees Mogg :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lazy Gobshites.

      You are Jacob Rees-mogg AICMFP

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lazy Gobshites.

      OP in jest, but has clearly struck a nerve.

      "The British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor." -Britannia Unchained. Penned by your Brexit Overlords. Voted in on a landslide.

  7. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Holmes

    Short-term observations

    Although the outcome of this study is hardly surprising, one has to wonder how long it will take workers to reestablish their baseline level of discontent to the 4-day work week, resulting in a concomitant drop in productivity. It seems like you'd really need to track output over the course of several years in order to gather reasonably conclusive data. It also seems like there are so many variables in play that conclusively establishing what happens to employee output over time will be quite challenging.

    Not to say that I oppose the idea, mind you . . . if my old job in IT Operations had been only four days (plus being on-call 24/7, of course), perhaps I wouldn't have burnt out.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Short-term observations

      I agree, unfortunately. I'd really like a four-day week, and if my employer did this maybe we'd try cutting back on the pointless meetings and make processes more efficient. However, there's a reason it got this inefficient in the first place, so if we were permanently on a four-day week, they'd start reintroducing the sources of the problems and productivity would fall again. Companies have many incentives to cut inefficient processes like too many meetings, but so few of them do it. I don't think shrinking the work week will make them do it.

  8. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Devil

    4 days? 5 days? 6 days?

    Just make up your minds (our customers) how many days you lot want to work.....

    Just wish they could all collectively decide so we could alter our times to match.....

    As for meeetings..... just tie the accountant to a chair and gag him... and our meetings are about 66% faster

    Although not as fast as the ones I'd run..... Agree with me and leave via the door... argue and you can leave via the window "PFY!!! start the wood chipper!"

    <wakes up from a doze to find the latest dribblings from our customer's designer on my CAD station........

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    |I changed from 6 day work week to 2 days, my blood pressure droped from 195 to 115 over some months,

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I changed from 6 day work week to 2 days, my income dropped from "afloat" to "bankrupt".

  10. david 12 Silver badge

    Kellog's (Corn Flakes) had a 30 hour week for 50 years from around 1930. The founders regarded shorter working hours as one of the benefits of improved national wealth. Around 1980 management got sick of it.

  11. n2ubp

    A 4 day workweek at IBM means less vacation time

    IBM calculates bases annual vacation time on total days worked, not hours worked. Work less days and get less vacation time off.

  12. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Nope

    So 10 hours shift + 2-4 hours commute and then 3 days for recovery? No thanks.

    Considering hours punitive progressive tax, it's really better to do 6 months on 6 months off schedule.

    You get more money for yourself and half of the year you can be a beach bum some place tropical with the most concern being when to roll that next fat spliff.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Nope

      I simply would never consider a job requiring a 2-4 hour commute. That sounds absolutely ridiculous.

      I once reluctantly took a job that required a 50 minute commute. I think I did well to stick it out for 10 months.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        1 hour in the morning to get in, 1 hour in the evening to get back home.

        That's pretty good in London. But given that TfL is so carp, it can easily stretch to double of that.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        I once had a job with a long commute, got a speeding ban.

        Objections to me doing it in 20m, cars did not like being overtaken.

        No more over 20 miles.

        I was averaging 75mph on A roads

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        When I was an undergraduate, I was living north of Boston, going to school in Boston, working one job just outside Boston, and working another to the west of Boston.

        My total commute time was ... well, it was long, though the exact time varied depending on how many of those places I went to on a given day, and what transport modes I used. But often I took the train or a bus + train combination, with a car ride back home in the evening with one of my co-workers. On public transport I could read for work, school, or pleasure, so I didn't feel that was wasted time.

        On days when I got out of the house too late to catch my bus or train and had to drive, it was a different story. I could easily end up losing close to four hours on such days. That was a ridiculous waste of my time, but I really had no one to blame but myself.

        These days I have to commute from my bedroom to the sunroom, but I've learned to put up with it.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Nope

          You're lucky that public transport was more time efficient than driving. Most of the jobs I've had, when I've had the car away for repairs or tests and taken the bus it's often taken four or five times longer. One job 45 minutes away would have turned into the absolute earliest bus available getting me into work at 1pm.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Nope

            To my current place bus is not viable, big town as well.

            Train and taxi is viable but expensive.

            Easiest just to get really ill and have permanent work from home, as ot up to driving it.

            (Would rather have health back though, they claim long covid, yet did not have any symptoms.)

        2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Nope

          On public transport I could read for work, school, or pleasure, so I didn't feel that was wasted time.

          And what if you read all books you wanted to read and then you'll notice all following books are just a rehash of what was previously written?

          You become a prisoner of the carriage. You want to do something practical with the gained knowledge, but all you can do is try to stand still and don't make eye contact with fellow passengers.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Nope

      What jobs do you people have that you can afford to not work for half of the year?

      1. Wincerind

        Re: Nope

        Probably behind a bar in a Greek holiday resort. They're closed from October to May.

      2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        Plenty in IT. Take 6 months' contract and then take 6 months off.

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        Define half a year?

        I expect most full-time people only actually work a little over half a year ie. 182 days, just that we mostly do them in 4-5 day chunks.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Nope

          Come on, you can log in to El Reg, you should be able to do at very least some basic maths too.

          182 / 2 = 91.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        Our max holiday entitlement went up from 25 to 30 days recently. Plus all the statutory and bank holidays too of course. I could probably switch to 4 day week with careful planning, but no long holidays, so probably not :-)

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Nope

          Get a cat, that long holidays gone out of the window right there.

  13. LybsterRoy Silver badge

    I may have missed it but does anyone have a link to the study. I've seen some reporting on it but have a few questions I'd like answering:

    1. What was the mix public:private

    2. What was the mix service:manufacturing

    One of the companies mentioned in the beebs coverage was an "environmental consultancy". Consultancies will either charge on an hours booked (note I do not say worked) or a per project basis. If charges are on an hours booked basis how can this not result in lower billings? If on a project basis I can see that wasting less time in meetings would keep revenues up but if management have allowed this time wasting already it will creep back.

    In the beeb reporting there was also mention of a fish & chip shop. Unless they reduce opening hours then surely this simply means more staff since I'm not sure how you'd get productivity improvements - rush the customers perhaps?

  14. RSW

    Cost of Offices

    Is this now also influenced by the cost of the work space?

    If everyone has the same day off then the company saves 1/5th on the heating and electricity in the office space for the day

    This of course does not matter if everyone is working from home, perhaps more relevant in factory spaces where people still have to turn up to do the work

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Cost of Offices

      OTH, if 20% or the workforce takes different days off, the company can reduce their office space by 20%. Probably a lot more savings than the heating and electricity reduction of a one day per week office closing.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Cost of Offices

        I suspect that would be more likely since otherwise you'd have some companies operating, eg Mon-Thurs, some operating Tues-Fri and other Mon-Fri. Companies need to interact with other companies so without a national decision for everyone to go Mon-Thurs confusion will likely abound. Likewise, with this international interconnected world, there would still be problems dealing with the rest of the world. Time zones already cause enough confusion without wondering whether a particular company will be operating on a particular day.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've had an experience where the small company I worked for was bought by a much larger company that had a "work all the hours there are" culture. People worked 12 - 18 hour days, sometimes 7 days a week.I've never met a more demotivated, ineffective bunch of people in my life. Almost everybody from my part of the company left after 6 months.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One place I worked had a "everybody does overtime" philosophy. I kept mine to 50-55 hours/week (usually 5x9 and 5-6 Saturday); one of the maintenance guys often did 70 (7x10). Turnover was 33% annually. I quit in less than a year. Couple of years later, corporate "divested" that facility. I'm NEVER going back to routinely working over 40 unless I have no other option. Ditto for 6+ days/week.

    2. Rufus McDufus

      I worked for a now-defunct computer manufacturer supporting a certain flavour of Unix back in the late 90s. After a 40 hour week I then twigged they expected me to go out onto a customer site for the whole weekend... every weekend, with no overtime pay. I managed 6 months. The other guy (yes there were only two of us) seemed to really enjoy the job.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      same. I joined a company where people are routinely working long into the early hours every day, with weekends starting to creep in. Management tells us to take flex time, but there's no gap in the workload. Staff are exhausted and depressed. After 6 months I'm resigning tomorrow.

    4. Fred Daggy Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Where did I read a study that showed the Greeks work the longest hours in Europe, but had the least productivity? Not, per hour, over the whole week.

      Overtime for a special project, I get. Or some emergency (REAL, existential). But "just because" no way.

      My boss is very fair, but the upper management, would not think twice about sending kids down the mines. So i will not work 5.5 days and only get paid for 4. A genuine 80%, perhaps. 4 long days at 100% salary - yes.

  16. localzuk

    A levels...

    Back when I did A level business studies, one of the topics discussed as about improving workplace efficiency. It being quite some time ago now, I have no idea what the references are for it, but there were studies that showed that productivity will improve when you introduce new schemes and incentives. Eg. people feel more valued when they get better lighting and chairs, so they work more effectively.

    However, the same studies showed that taking those things away again didn't reduce productivity by anywhere as much as it increased.

    I suspect with this scheme, we're seeing similar. If the businesses went back to 5 day weeks, but kept the other small changes - reduced meetings etc, then I'd guess they would see an increase in productivity close to an extra day's work.

    Just don't let the managers catch on.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So they did the same results (turnover etc) with 20% fewer days, meanwhile MSFT and Google etc are saying they need 20% more productivity...

    Once we're all accustomed to producing well with a 4 day week, how long will it be till they start suggesting a 5 day week is needed to get that 20% bump ?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Maybe never if it becomes standard. Few people work a 6 day week[*] these days since that new fangled idea of only working 5 days caught on :-)

      * some of the people posting above excepted of course. Although anyone working 50-60 or more hours per week, especially where it's expected, standard and in some cases even unpaid, well, you're in the wrong job. Ok maybe for a short period, or to gain experience but anyone on a fixed salary should only be doing extra hours when it's needed, ie exceptions, not standard practice and should be a decent enough salary to account for those hours. Voluntarily working more hours for more pay because you need or want the extra cash is a different thing.

  18. low_resolution_foxxes

    Looking through the majority of companies, there really are not many surprises among the type of companies involved.

    Indeed, it is a 'not for profit' group that is largely checking whether other charity/public sector/linked businesses enjoyed working 4 day weeks.

    In exchange for reducing their work days by 52 days per year, they did not a typical reduction of 2 days per year sick leave.

    So yes, as expected, those funded by charitable means and via council/government cash, found that their employees liked working 4 days a week for the same money.

    Notably, no plumbers or manufacturing firms chose to join the study, although I will admit the curiousity that 'Atom Bank' did actually take part.

    I don't think this will gain any traction in the so-called 'dirty trades' where pay is based on actual work output.

  19. ChaosFreak

    Surrendipitous Interactions?

    The idea that "serendipitous interactions" In the office lead to creative ideas has been so thoroughly debunked, I'm surprised we keep seeing this old trope dragged out over and over again one discussing the merits of working in the office.

    Serendipitous interactions are more likely to be productivity sucking interruptions 99 times out of 100. If you want to foster creativity, schedule events to promote brainstorming, including off sites, activities and brainstorming sessions.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Surrendipitous Interactions?

      "The idea that "serendipitous interactions" In the office lead to creative ideas has been so thoroughly debunked, I'm surprised we keep seeing this old trope dragged out over and over again"

      I've not seen it debunked. All I've seen is a lot of people, usually ones who like WFH, saying it isn't true. I can't call something disproved on the basis of "a lot of people don't think it is true". Neither does that prove that it is true after all. I've seen no useful data to making a factual statement about it, and given that it would require some objective judgement on how creative an idea was and how the idea came to exist in someone's head, it might not be possible to prove it either way definitively.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surrendipitous Interactions?

        One of the things I've liked now we're back in the office regularly (we are allowed to choose, within reason, how much time we spend in the office and how much working from home) is the impromptu conversations that go on. Often not related to my specific bit of the project, but useful to know more about other areas and how the product is used - makes it more meaningful knowing how my bit fits in with the rest of the project, and how the customer gets to abuse it.

  20. YetAnotherXyzzy

    What a surprise. Not.

    Campaign groups do a study. Study says that the campaign groups are right.

    Mind you, I'd like to believe the study's results, but wishing it so doesn't make it so. Wake me up when an independent study appears.

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