Four-day workweek’s popularity grew during the pandemic — survey

Four-day workweek’s popularity grew during the pandemic — survey

More businesses adopted a four-day week during the COVID-19 pandemic as the shift to remote working spurred a major rethinking of work practices, according to a poll of senior leaders at 500 UK businesses by the University of Reading’s Henley Business School.

The survey, an update to research from 2019, showed that 21% of respondents adopted a four-day workweek for all staff in 2021, up from 18% in 2019. The majority of respondents (65%) said a four-day workweek is in place for at least some of their workers, up from 50% who said that in 2019. A four-day workweek is defined in the report as involving a reduction from five to four workdays for the same pay or a compressed workweek with the same hours across four days instead of five.  

Though a four-day workweek has gained popularity, the UK numbers are perhaps higher than expected; job posting site Indeed told Computerworld that less than 1% of job postings on March 11 included the term “four-day week,” for example. A Gallup survey of full-time U.S. employees in March 2020 — prior to the pandemic — indicated that only 5% put in four days a week, with the vast majority (84%) working five days (and 11% working six days each week).

That said, numerous organizations have adopted or trialled a shorter workweek for staff since the start of the pandemic, including firms such as Atom Bank, Bolt, Buffer, and Kickstarter. And pilot projects are under way in several countries, including the US, UK, and Spain.

Such projects are not new, of course; Microsoft launched a trial at its Japan offices in 2019 that resulted in higher productivity, for example, while the UK’s Wellcome Trust ran into issues around complexity with its own project the same year.

A shorter workweek has been talked about for decades, but a shift from the five-day, 40-hour week that has been the standard for over a century has so far failed to gain momentum.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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