The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that it is possible to rapidly transform the way we work. Working traditions that seemed set in stone were turned on their heads in weeks.

This has led more people to question the way we work. And to ask themselves what it would mean for full-time workers to work one less day per week.

The UK four day work week trial

Researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College, and Oxford University want to find out what effect a four day week has on companies and employees.

So starting in June 2022, more than 3,000 workers across 60 companies will take part in the UK four day work week trial.

The trial is the biggest ever attempted, and it’ll run for six months, with similar pilot schemes running in Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The businesses who’ve volunteered to take part in the UK four day work week trial are both big and small, and they operate in a wide variety of sectors. Among them are a beer brewing company, a fish and chip shop, and the Royal Society of Biology.

So how will it work?

The pilot scheme will run on a 100:80:100 model.

This means that employees will make 100% of their usual salary while working 80% of their regular hours. However, they agree to maintain 100% productivity compared to a five day week.

What employers need to know about four day work weeks

Wondering what a four day work week would mean for your organisation? Take a look at these pros and cons.  

Advantages of a four day work week

Reduced costs

When companies reduce the days people come to the office each week, they can reduce costs. They spend less heating and lighting their office building, for example.  

Employees also save money — on commuting, lunch, and coffee.

Importantly, the four day work week can also help workers save money on childcare. This makes it easier for companies to recruit and retain working parents, who make up three in seven of the UK workforce.

Increased productivity

Several four day work week trials have already taken place around the world.

In Iceland, where a pilot scheme ran from 2015 to 2019, productivity remained the same or increased in most workplaces.

At Microsoft Japan, productivity jumped by 40% during their four day work week trial.

Improves work-life balance

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers came to value the new work-life balance that flexible and remote working gave them. A four day work week takes that one step further.

Employees have more time to spend with family and friends, enjoy hobbies, or simply catch up on household chores.

This work-life balance helps reduce stress and the risk of burnout.

Improves employee wellbeing

Good work-life balance is good for well-being. But when employees have an extra day off per week, they get more time to focus specifically on their physical and mental health.

This has benefits for a company as well as its workers.

When employees feel good and take care of their health, they’re less likely to call in sick. Employee wellbeing also supports good employee engagement and organisational performance.

Better recruitment and retention

Companies are now seeing the benefits of offering flexible working. This perk is helping them attract top talent at a time of fierce recruitment competition.

The four day work week is another major selling point for companies looking to recruit and retain the very best employees.

Disadvantages of a four day work week

It won’t work for every business model or every employee

You can still provide around-the-clock staffing on a four day work week model. But this structure may not suit professions that already have specialised shift patterns or irregular schedules.

Plus, some employees like the structure of a five day week, so organisations may struggle to get all workers on board.

Depending on which model companies choose, it can lead to burnout

Employees will work four normal-length days per week in the upcoming UK trial.

But there’s an alternative four day work week model, in which employees work four extra-long days per week.

Making working days more intense and tiring than usual increases the risk of employee burnout. With this particular model, employees get minimal downtime on their working days.

It can lead to a disconnect between employees and their company

Early on in the pandemic, Gallup surveyed workers who worked four, five, and six-day weeks. The four-day workers weren’t part of a workplace trial – but they did report higher levels of disengagement.

There’s a danger that time spent away from the workplace creates a disconnect between employees and their organisation.

Should you adopt a four day work week?

Feeling inspired by the UK four day work week trial?

With trials around the world so far proving successful, adopting a four day work week could be a great move for your organisation.

But it all depends upon the specifics of your business, your industry, and your employees.

And if you don’t feel quite ready to take the plunge with a four-day work week, you can do plenty of other things to improve employee well-being, prevent burnout, and attract talent.

Consider any of the following ways to give your employees the flexibility they crave:

Unlimited PTO: Trust workers to manage their productivity and workload with the offer of unlimited paid time off.

One Friday a month off: If one day per week feels like a stretch, you could try giving employees just one extra day per month for themselves.  

Flexible working: A majority of employees are looking to maintain a hybrid working model. Give employees the flexibility to pick a working schedule that suits them.

Ready for more of the latest recruitment insight?

Check out the articles on the crooton blog to learn more about where you should be posting your job adverts, how to recruit Generation Z, and the difference between diversity, equity and inclusion

And for help with your recruitment strategy, get in touch with the crooton team for some expert advice!