A 4-Day Workweek… Maybe?

Half of UK firms testing the shorter week say they will make it permanent. Still, skeptics say innovation and training could suffer.

Dozens of companies are trying it. It remains a heated topic of conversation for workers and firm leaders. Now, at least in the UK, there appear to be some strong results from firms testing a four-day workweek.

Back in 2022, 61 British companies began a six-month-long experiment—the world’s longest-ever such trial run—with a four-day workweek. The results were solidly positive, with nine out of 10 companies (89%) continuing with the practice, and slightly more than half (51%) implementing it permanently. The new schedule works partly because employers are focused on the productivity of workers rather than their hours, says Drew Hill, a Korn Ferry senior client partner. “You can have the same output in forty hours as in fifty,” he says.

To achieve the same productivity in fewer working hours, employers need to enable their employees to change the ways things are done, says Tim Manasseh, Korn Ferry’s senior partner, EMEA, for global consumer products. He cites two keys to accomplishing that: using technology to deal with low-value processes, and making meetings both fewer and more efficient. “If that is done, there is a lot of evidence it can work well,” he says.

The findings from the test run of the four-day week also showed that workers had a better sense of well-being. Half the companies said the quit rate fell, and one in three said it boosted recruitment.

Still, despite the benefits, skeptics worry about some of the challenges. Most people like being able to make choices, says Rob McPherson, a Korn Ferry senior client partner: “If you take that away, they don’t like it.” It might be better to offer a more flexible approach, he says.

McPherson notes, however, that fewer days in the office or on the factory floor may come at the expense of lower levels of innovation, depending on a worker’s role. If people spend less time thinking and collaborating on projects, the likely result will be fewer inventions or new ways of doing things. “I don’t think it’s a trade-off that all companies will want to make,” he says. If maintaining relationships is important or big innovations are being introduced, then people need to be around, and a four-day week would likely undermine that, he says.

Another challenge, of course, is that not all businesses operate in the same manner. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution," Manasseh says. For instance, it’s hard to see how work in manufacturing, hospitality, or retail would accommodate such a switch, he notes. A flexible workforce willing to adapt a new scheduling pattern would be necessary.

Separately, while less time in the office may appeal to corporate veterans, it isn’t helpful to recent graduates and other newcomers who need hands-on mentoring and training from those with industry experience and knowledge of the company culture, Hill says. “You need the older ones to show up.”


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