Four day's work for five day's pay

The UK pilot of a shorter work-week with no pay reduction has reported positive results for both companies and workers.

Many will have seen the story ‘Firms stick to four-day week after trial ends’ on BBC News this morning (21/02/2023). The report relates to a UK-based pilot where companies volunteered to experiment with a 20% reduction in working hours for staff with no loss of pay.



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I am not a qualified HR professional, so any comment I make below about the legal aspects of employment should be treated solely as a personal obervation


The pilot was run by campaigning group 4 Day Week Global Foundation with academic support from Boston College, UC Dublin, University of Cambridge and the private research organisation Autonomy.

The UK pilot report highlights the following key findings:

  • companies were free to devise their own policy, ranging from classic “Friday off” to “staggered”, “decentralised”, “annualised”, and “conditional” structures.
  • 92% of the companies (N=61) are continuing with the four-day week, with 30% confirming it is a permanent change.
  • 39% of employees (N~2,900) report lower stress, and 71% report reduced levels of burnout. Other reported benefits include improvements in mental and physical health, lower anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues.
  • 54% of employees reported better work-life, 60% increased ability to combine paid work with caring responsiblities, and 62% easier to combine work with a social life.
  • companies’ revenue stayed broadly the same across the trial, rising by 1.4% on average, weighted by company size
  • staff turnover at the participating companies dropped by 57% over the trial period, sick and personal leave days per month dropped 65% and new hiring dropped 37%.

Caveats and complexities

The UK pilot report also details some of the details around staff contracts, annual leave and impact for existing part-time workers. See also Four-day week: what are the legal considerations for HR?.

A common concern amongst workers is that such changes will increase the intensity and/or complexity of their work.

In the pilot:

  • 36% of employees evaluated intensity as slightly increased, whereas 31% perceived a decline in work intensity.
  • 42% of employees saw some increase in work complexity, 42% saw a decrease in work complexity.
  • 90% of employees wanted to continue after the pilot, and 96% had a preference for a four-day week over a five-day week.


Many companies engaged staff in ways to adjust efficiency, reinforcing that a four-day week required a productivity increase. Examples from the pilot report:

  • shorter and less frequent meetings, and with clearer agendas and objectives.
  • better email etiquette
  • asking staff to analyse and improve processes
  • a designated time of day for staff to conduct independent work uninterrupted.
  • automating aspects of work
  • consolidating internal communications and documents into a single piece of software.
  • promoting “monotasking”, eliminating the time wasted on switching between tasks.
  • Creating a task-list before leaving work, in order to hand over to colleagues or hit the ground running on the following day.
  • reducing the number of staff involved in a particular process.

UK pilot report

What can people do on the extra ‘free’ day?

The report categorises the responses from senior management about their hopes for staff time-use outside of work into “disinterest”, “interest” and “direction”. The last category is perhaps the most contentious:

The third category, direction, refers to a small selection of pilot companies that tried to actively shape how staff used their time off. The CEOs of two organisations, for example, were disappointed with the low uptake of voluntary work among staff during the pilot, and were exploring ways to nudge staff toward spending their free-time on prosocial contributions.


Several managers in the disinterested/interested companies saw the fifth day as a potentially attractive opportunity for staff to top up income (especially in the context of a cost of living crisis)

In the more directive companies, by contrast, earning additional income was prohibited, either through a written agreement or less formally, through internal communications. Managers in these companies believed that staff who used their day off to earn further income would be breaching their side of a bargain


On the face of it this is an extremely interesting set of results. From a purely personal perspective the idea of working in a very focused way for four days in return for an additional day of leisure seems extremely attractive, I am fortunate in that I can easily see how my professional goals could be achieved in that way.

By contrast, I am sure there are many jobs where it is less clear. Is there a potential here to make more complex the differences between jobs, adding to the distinction driven by the pandemic between jobs that can be done at home and those that can’t?

There is lots more in the pilot report that hasn’t made it to my summary, well worth a deeper read if you are interested.

See also

This is #100DaysToOffload 18/100

Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change