A 4-day workweek test cut turnover by 57%

Fifty-six of the 61 participating employers have stuck with the model, and 15% of the workers said no amount of additional pay would lure them back to a five-day week.
The workweek shortened, but sales grew. / Photo: Shutterstock

A new in-depth study of four-day workweeks makes a strong case for restaurateurs and other employers to figure out a way to shorten schedules without reducing pay.

A report based on a six-month trial of four-day weeks by 61 companies in the United Kingdom shows that employee turnover dropped by 57%. Simultaneously, participants’ revenues rose 1.4%.

Restaurants were among the 63 participating companies.

The report, whose authors include the advocacy group 4 Day Week Global, did not offer a theory for why sales rose during the experiment. But the numbers suggested that employee-facing workers might have been in a better frame of mind. About 39% of the 2,900 participating employees indicated they felt less stress, and 71% reported feeling less burned out.

The experience led 56 of the 61 participating employers to stick with a four-day week even after the experiment ended in December, and 18 have declared it their new policy, according to the report.

On the employee side, 15% of the participating workers said they would not return to a five-day week regardless of the pay. About 62% reported they had an easier time maintaining a social life, and 54% reported a better work-life balance.

The trial upon which the report is based was the most extensive test to date of a four-day workweek, according to the authors. In addition to 4 Day Week Global, the forces behind the project included representatives of Autonomy, a think tank focused on employment issues, and researchers from Boston College, University College in Dublin, University of Cambridge, University of Salford and Vrije Universiteit in Brussels.

The research differed from early experiments by the group in several ways, including how a four-day workweek was structured. The intent was to provide the leeway for participating employers to tailor a four-day workweek to the nature of their business.

Most participants opted for a three-day weekend, with Friday designated the additional day off.

Others chose another day for their additional downtime. Still more used floating schedules whereby different employees took their third day off on different days of the week.

A participating restaurant company opted for an annualized approach, the additional free time changing with the time of year. The four-day schedule for slow or shoulder seasons was different from the one used during peak business stretches.

The identity of that restaurant company was not revealed.

Restaurants and other U.S. employers have been experimenting with shortened workweeks as they search for new ways of attracting and retaining employees. The U.K. experiment was different in that hours were cut rather than merely redistributed across only four days. The companies agreed not to cut employees’ pay when their week was shortened from a conventional 40 hours.

The complete 70-page report, “The Results Are In: UK’s Four Day Week Pilot, is available here.

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