Four Day Working Week Pilot: Employees Report Increased Wellbeing

The 4-Day Workweek Pilot, was the world’s largest coordinated four-day week trial to date, involving over 60 companies and approximately 2,900 employees, organized by a range of prominent 4 day week advocates such as Autonomy – a research group from the UK, 4 Day Week GlobalProf. Juliet Schor from Boston College, and Dr. David Frayne and Prof. Brendan Burchell from the University of Cambridge. 

The pilot aimed to analyze the implementation and impact of the four-day week in terms of company performance, employee health, well-being, and work-life balance.

The results of the research have been made public, so let’s take a closer look at some of the key findings. For anyone interested in the full report, I strongly recommend checking it out.

How Many Companies Participated in the Autonomy’s Trial?

As reported, 61 companies participated in Autonomy’s trial. The majority of the companies were from the marketing/advertising sector (18%), followed by professional services (16%), and charities/nonprofits (11%). It’s great to see the diversity of companies that participated in the trial as this counters the common argument that only tech companies with a significant profit margin can afford such as schedule. 

Smaller businesses with some exceptions were mainly recruited for the pilot as 66% of the firms had 25 or fewer employees, 22% had 50 or more staff, and one company had around 1,000 staff.

Some of the characteristics of the companies include: most of the employees were female (62%), most of them lived in the UK (88.8%), most of them were White (90%), and most of them had at least an undergraduate degree (68%). 

The most commonly held occupations among the staff were ‘business and administration professionals’ (16%) and ‘legal, social, and cultural professionals’ (15%). 70% of employees in the sample were either married or living with a cohabitation partner, and about half (52%) had at least one child.

It’s encouraging to see how Autonomy’s trial is making the effort to make its program as accessible and inclusive as possible. 

What Impact Did Reduced Hours Have on Employee Well-Being During the Trial Period?

As we further learn from the report the 6-month trial period of reduced work hours had a positive impact on employee well-being. Work stressburnoutjob satisfaction, and mental health all have seemed to improve, while fatiguesleep difficulties, and negative emotions decreased. 

These improvements can be attributed to the reduction in working hours, which enabled employees to have more time for rest and self-care, allowing them to manage their stress levels better. This is all based on the surveys done 6 months after starting the pilot and many 1:1 discussions that managers had with their employees.

The most popular types of four-day weeks being piloted in the study were fifth-day stoppagestaggereddecentralizedannualized, and conditional

The fifth-day stoppage model was a popular choice in companies where staff collaboration is more important than five-day coverage. This model requires the company to shut down operations for one additional day a week. 

The staggered model was a popular choice in companies where five-day coverage was important. With this model, the staff takes alternating days off and the company is divided into two teams, with one team taking Mondays off, and the other taking Fridays off. 

The decentralized model allows different departments to operate on different work patterns, possibly resulting in a mixture of the two models above. This was chosen in companies whose departments had highly contrasting functions and challenges. 

With the annualized model, staff works a 32-hour average working week, calculated on the scale of a year. 

Finally, the conditional model allows staff entitlement to the four-day week to be tied to ongoing performance monitoring. Seniors in the company may decide to temporarily suspend the four-day week for certain departments or individuals if there is evidence that staff is failing to meet agreed performance targets.

What Was the Overall Reaction to the 4-Day Workweek Trial by Both Companies and Employees?

The reaction to the 4-day workweek trial from both companies and employees was mostly positive. As reported, companies saw the 4-day workweek as an opportunity to be at the forefront of a historical shift, as well as a way to provide a benefit to employees that would improve employee well-being and morale. 

Employees saw the 4-day workweek as a way to have a healthier work-life balance, as well as a way to have more time to pursue other interests and activities outside of work. The 4-day workweek was also seen as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with some companies using it as a way to attract and retain talent, while others saw it as a way to give employees much-needed rest and recovery time after a difficult year. 

Overall, the 4-day workweek trial was seen as a favorable experience by both companies and employees, and many of the companies involved in the trial are now making it permanent.


1. What Are the Disadvantages of a 4 Day Workweek?

Some businesses may be required to hire additional staff when transitioning to a four-day workweek, leading to higher overhead costs; for example, restaurants. With reduced work days, employees in some companies would be expected to put in the same amount of hours and deliver the same production, which could cause more stress on them.

2. Is a 4 Day Workweek Still 40 Hours?

Generally, a 4-day workweek involves 32 hours; however, there are instances of companies that offer 40 hours spread over 4 days, resulting in a compressed work schedule. This is certainly not what the 4 Day Week Campaign is trying to achieve; rather, they suggest adapting one of the 4-day week models, such as staff taking alternating days off if the main model with everybody being off on Friday doesn’t suit the business.

Piotr Gacon
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