A public sector 4-day workweek trial had practically no drawbacks, researchers found

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    A four-day work week trial at a UK council cut staff turnover by 39%, researchers from two universities said.The council saved almost $500,000, and worker mental health and motivation improved.The experiment showed improved or stable performance in 22 of 24 areas.

    A four-day workweek reduces staff turnover, improves employee mental health, and saves money, according to the largest public sector trial held in the UK.

    On Monday, academics at two British universities — Cambridge and Salford — released their findings from a 15-month trial of a shortened working week.

    The experiment, which started in January 2023, was introduced by South Cambridgeshire District Council in southeast England.

    It is the largest public sector trial of the four-day workweek held so far in the UK, involving 697 employees, including office and waste workers.

    As part of the project, people were expected to complete 100% of their work in 80% of the time for full pay.

    Researchers assessed 24 areas, such as worker motivation, staff mental health, and workers’ commitment to their roles.

    Out of the 24 areas assessed, performance improved or stayed the same in a total of 22. Staff turnover was reduced by 39%, significantly lowering recruitment demand. The number of external applicants for open roles also greatly increased, with 76% reporting the four-day week trial as influencing them to apply for open positions.

    Prof Daiga Kamerāde, one of the report’s authors and a professor of work and wellbeing at the University of Salford, told Business Insider: “Organizations that will be too reluctant to introduce the four-day week might start falling behind, because that’s what we see in other trials already.”

    “Organizations who are forerunners in the industry of four-day workweek trials attract the best talent around because people say if I can do four days a week or five days a week, I’m going to go where I can do four days a week,” she said.

    The project helped the council to save £371,500 ($476,980), mainly from agency staff costs, which related to only 10 posts.

    Workers saw their mental and physical health improve and their motivation levels rise, researchers said.

    “You can see across the board, that if anything, there’s a lot more evidence that things improved during the period of the trial compared to before the trial,” Prof Brendan Burchell, another author of the report and a professor at the faculty of Human, Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge, told BI.

    Discussing the positive outcomes of the four-day workweek experiment, he said: “It should give other organizations a lot of confidence that this is definitely something worth looking at.”

    There were just two drawbacks discovered from the shorter week.

    Rent collected from social housing mildly declined, and the average number of days to re-let housing stock worsened slightly. Burchell said national problems such as the cost-of-living crisis and people struggling to pay their bills were partially responsible for the trial’s problematic aspects.

    The US, Canada, Ireland, and Germany are among the countries that have trialed the shortened working week. Belgium became the first country to legislate for a four-day week in February 2022.

    In a post-pandemic world already accustomed to remote and hybrid work patterns, with more and more reports coming back hailing the benefits of prolonged weekends, the movement is gaining traction.

    “When workers are better rested, when they have a better work-life balance, and they have more time to themselves outside of work, they then actually perform better at their job,” Joe Ryle, the campaign director at 4 Day Week, a campaign to transition to a shorter working week with no loss of pay, told BI.

    “We’re finding that people are doing all sorts of things on their day off, like volunteering in the community,” he said.

    “At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about, it’s about creating a society where we can all live happier and healthier lives.”

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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