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New Study Proved That Every Company, Business Should Go For The 4-Day Workweek

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The results are there: It’s time for your business to stop working on Fridays (or Mondays).

The latest and perhaps most compelling evidence of the shift to a four-day workweek comes from a six-month trial starting in February 2022, in which 33 companies with employees in six countries reduced their employees’ workloads to four days or 32 hours. , one week. Organized by 4 Day Week Global, the real-world experiment sought to see whether employees could be as productive 80% of the time – all for the same pay. The results were overwhelmingly positive: companies participating in the program reported increased revenue, improved employee health and well-being, and had a positive impact on the environment. And after the success, a hundred more companies that together employ thousands of people are considering or are already implementing the same approach.

So if you’ve ever tried to persuade your boss to switch to a four-day workweek, this is the best evidence that it can work. The results of the new report were unequivocal: the four-day workweek was better for everyone.

‘It probably sounds crazy, but it works’

At the start of the trial, employees at Soothing Solutions, a Dundalk, Ireland-based company that makes cough drops for children, were skeptical that a four-day workweek would be feasible, let alone profitable. But founders Sinéad Crowther and Denise Lauaki had high hopes. When the company was founded in 2017, the duo wanted to establish a people-centric culture, so when Crowther heard about the 4 Day Week program in 2021, she saw it as a way to attract and retain talent.

Since Soothing Solutions hired its first employees last year, not a single staff member has left the company, and Crowther told me that the anecdotal feedback about the four-day week was so glowing it nearly brought her to tears. “One of our employees has an elderly father who was terminally ill and she spent three, four days a week with them,” she told me. “She said nothing can give her that time back. She wouldn’t have to do that in any other job.” Another worker was able to pursue her passion for photography in her spare time, Crowther said, adding that “she’s a fantastic photographer!”

As Soothing Solutions started operations using the four-day week, the founders have nothing to compare their business growth to, but Crowther isn’t worried about any negative impact a four-day week might have on the business, even if the company grows. When we spoke, Soothing Solutions had just launched on Amazon and had its first UK sale. Its products are available in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Scotland, with plans to expand. “We have absolutely no concerns,” she said. “It probably sounds crazy, but it works.”

4 Day Week Global is a not-for-profit community platform promoting the four-day workweek, helping companies implement it, and funding research on the future of work. The organization was established following the success of a landmark test program at New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian by co-founder Andrew Barnes. To conduct tests in companies and analyze their results, the group partners with academics from Harvard Business School, Oxford University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The four-day week movement has been gaining momentum in the wake of the Great Resignation and pressure from employees to rethink the way we work. Tech startup Bolt became the first unicorn to test it in 2021, being so successful that it implemented it after three months. Other trials of shorter weeks have also met with success: a 2021 trial in Iceland found positive results, and a 2019 research paper from the Henley Business School found that two-thirds of companies operating in a four-day week saw increased employee productivity. employees.

There is some resistance, however. A shorter week can mean that employees’ workloads increase each day, causing more stress instead of less. For companies that experience significantly busier periods around the holidays or during the summer, it may not be possible to extend the program throughout the year. And many businesses, such as banks or insurance companies that require 24/7 customer service or news organizations that follow a 24-hour news cycle, are unable to close even one day a week. But in these cases, companies could approach the four-day week the same way they already deal with weekends: just organize the teams’ schedules so that there are always people working.

no disadvantages

The continued push for a four-day work week is not the first time there has been a movement to overthrow the traditional work model. Until 1926, the standard US work week was six days long. So, Henry Ford reduced the workweek at his namesake company to five days. He believed that an extra day off would increase workers’ productivity and give workers more free time to spend more money – hopefully on Ford cars. The trend caught on, and after workers organized in favor of the change, the Fair Labor Standards Act set the standard for the 44-hour workweek; an amendment in 1940 established the now standard 40-hour week. Fast forward to today, and our standards seem ripe for a shake-up once again.

Barry Prost, co-founder of Irish company Rent a Recruiter, a service specializing in talent acquisition, participated in the six-month 4-day week trial aimed at addressing staff turnover – a problem for many companies since the coronavirus pandemic . When the pandemic began, Rent a Recruiter was already moving to a permanent remote work model, and upon learning of the program, the company decided to try the four-day week as well. For Prost, it was particularly important to make sure the change didn’t hurt customers. Despite these reservations, Prost told me that not only did customers support the modified schedule, but some even asked about implementing the policy on their own.

Crucially, the new approach has brought huge gains for the small startup, which employs 20 people. During the six-month trial period, Rent a Recruiter doubled its gross profit and calculated that its staff’s productivity also doubled in that period. And while it wasn’t the initial motivation, Prost told me the benefits showed up in more than just the company’s bottom line. “Anecdotally, we have a manager who is also a psychotherapist – she can now devote more time to her therapeutic practice,” he said. “We have moms and dads who can drop off and pick up their kids on Friday that they couldn’t do otherwise.”

While staff well-being and retention are important, the trial was also associated with increased revenue among participating companies. Among the 16 companies in the test that provided revenue data, companies’ combined revenue, weighted by size, increased by 8.14%, which for some companies was nearly 40% greater than revenue growth during the same six-year period. months of the previous year.

Companies that participated in the test reported almost no downsides. None of the 27 companies that responded to a final survey for participants said they had plans to go back to a five-day week. And nearly all of the 495 employees involved in the trial wanted to keep the four-day work week. According to post-test surveys, everyone from CEOs and managers to junior staff saw far-reaching benefits, and a new UK-wide test is underway.

Less working hours can also help the environment and gender inequality

While adopters of a four-day workweek may primarily be looking for a business impact – on revenue or employee well-being – there may also be less obvious benefits.

On the one hand, less working time correlates with lower carbon emissions – people are commuting less and companies use less energy. The 4 Day Week test found that participants spent an hour less commuting than before the test. And, as Orla Kelly, an environmental sociologist at University College Dublin, who was the lead researcher on the 4 Day Week study, told me, the shorter workweek also helps people make more pro-environmental choices. “When people work longer hours, they tend to get into this kind of work-and-spend cycle where spending patterns tend to be quite intense,” Kelly said. With less free time, people are more likely to buy food in disposable plastic packaging, drive to work rather than walk or use public transport, and spend more money on material goods. Kelly told me that because this is difficult to measure, the research is still in its early stages, but she hopes to flesh out the idea and provide more concrete evidence of the environmental benefits of a shorter workweek.

A four-day week also yields major improvements in well-being, life satisfaction and sleep for women. As women tend to take on more caregiving responsibilities, the extra day off was more beneficial for them, allowing the extra emotional workload to be distributed more evenly. In Ireland, where many of the companies in the study were based, 70% of part-time workers are women. “Women tend to have lower-paying jobs, so they tend to switch to part-time even if they don’t want to,” Kelly told me. Especially in recent years, women have been leaving the workforce in droves, or reduced hours, due to burnout or a lack of childcare options. “This can be problematic for your long-term career trajectory, your pension contributions and the power dynamics within the family,” said Kelly. Reducing working hours for everyone helps women stay in their full-time jobs and not feel like they are being pushed out of the workforce.

The world is unlikely to change to a four-day week overnight, but the test yielded real benefits and found that it is possible for many different types of businesses, provided they are willing to make the switch. As companies continue to struggle to attract and retain employees, the four-day week may be a relatively simple solution. And after the last test, there aren’t many excuses not to give it a try.

Molly Lipson is a freelance writer and organizer from the UK.