Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

The U.K.’s 4-Day Work Week Experiment Is Going Even Better Than Expected

group of coworkers sitting huddled in an office talking, listening to one another, and smiling
Bailey Zelena; FreshSplash/Getty Images

For thousands of employees around the world, the four-day work week—and perhaps more importantly, a three-day weekend every weekend—is no longer a distant dream but a tangible reality. More than 3,300 workers at 70 organizations in the U.K. are over halfway through the largest single “4 Day Week” pilot program—and their leaders have said resoundingly that it’s working, not only for the employees themselves, but also for the companies.

In a midpoint survey conducted by 4 Day Week Global, the nonprofit running this and other trials around the world, 88% of respondents said the pilot was working well for the business. An overwhelming majority (86%) also said that roughly halfway through the six-month trial, they felt it was “extremely likely” or “likely” that the company would consider making the four-day week a permanent arrangement.

Here’s the even better news for employers and employees alike: Forty-six percent of respondents—typically CEOs, COOs, or HR leads—said their organizations maintained similar levels of productivity as everyone transitioned from working 40 to 32 hours a week at the same pay. And even more reported that productivity actually increased slightly (34%) or improved significantly (15%). Ninety-five percent of respondents felt, just three months in, that the transition didn’t stop workers from getting things done and in many cases allowed them to accomplish more in less time.

“The way we would look at it is if you can do this, if you can pull this off without any lost productivity—given the other benefits around recruitment, well-being, and engagement—then that’s a roaring success,” 4 Day Week Global CEO Joe O’Connor tells The Muse. Companies are already using four-day weeks to address issues around productivity, efficiency, burnout, overwork, and, increasingly, competition for talent. “What we’re trying to achieve is shortening hours without compromising organizational performance, productivity, or priorities,” O’Connor says.

The founders of 4 Day Week Global, Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart, created “a framework to try to shift the focus away from the length of time that people were spending at the office, at the desk, or on the clock, and onto an infrastructure which is much more focused around output and results,” O’Connor explains. And the output and results, so far at least, seem to be there, even if you ask the bosses.

“The four-day week trial so far has been extremely successful for us,” Claire Daniels, CEO at the Leeds- and London-based marketing agency Trio Media, told 4 Day Week Global. “Productivity has remained high, with an increase in wellness for the team, along with our business performing 44% better financially.” Another respondent—Sharon Platts, Chief People Officer for Outcomes First Group, an education, care, and fostering provider—said the experiment “has been transformational for us so far,” with productivity and output both increasing.

I don't think the genie is gonna go back in the bottle.

Joe O'Connor, CEO at 4 Day Week Global

Though the participating organizations seem to be faring better than expected, the survey did point to a slightly rockier transition for some than others. Asked to rate how smooth the shift from five to four days went on a scale from 5 (“extremely smooth”) to 1 (“extremely challenging”), 29% of respondents selected 5, 49% selected 4, and 20% selected 3.

“Even if you’ve got the greatest planning and preparation in the world, for some people, this is going to feel like moving to a different country,” O’Connor says, especially at companies that have more complex operations, increased bureaucracy, or customer or client coverage to consider. “There’s going to be an element of culture shock in the early stages.” But even those companies that struggled to adjust in the first few weeks, he says, felt they’d overcome those challenges by the time the survey was conducted.

Though this midpoint survey is the first of its kind and the current U.K. pilot is the largest so far, there are other experiments taking place all over the world as we speak. One pilot in the U.S. and Canada—with about 3,000 employees at 40 participating organizations including Kickstarter, simPRO, and Healthwise—has just wrapped up. And another pilot with 25 participating organizations is just getting underway. Anecdotal feedback from leaders and employee surveys suggests other pilots have been similarly positive, O’Connor says. The employee surveys, for example, point to improvements around burnout, well-being, stress, life satisfaction, and sleep.

“We’ve moved past the point of, ‘Can the four-day week work?’” O’Connor says. “There’s enough research and social proof out there that very clearly demonstrates that this is doable for a whole lot of different businesses and different industries.”

And he sees the tide beginning to turn in favor of popularizing and normalizing the four-day week. “I don’t think the genie is gonna go back in the bottle,” he says. Particularly in industries like tech, IT, software, finance, and professional services, O’Connor expects it’s not long before we see a shift from the current reality where offering a four-day work week is a competitive advantage to a future state where not offering a four-day week becomes a competitive disadvantage.

“The question leaders should be asking themselves now is not, ‘Is trying this a significant risk for my business?’” O’Connor says, but rather, “‘If I ignore the momentum behind this, what’s the risk to my business if my greatest competitor does it first?’”

Want those regular three-day weekends? Search for job openings at companies that offer a four-day work week on The Muse!