'It's honestly changed my life': Employees from one of the biggest 4-day-workweek trials say working less improved their lives but was a big adjustment
Four workers who took part in a recent four-day-workweek trial say their lives have improved since.
About 2,900 workers in the UK took part in the trial, which ran from June to December.
Employees working four-day weeks told Insider having the extra day off was an adjustment at first.
Four employees who took part in one of the world's biggest four-day-workweek trials say working a shorter week has had a positive impact on their day-to-day lives.
"It's hard to overstate how good it's been," Jo Sims, a senior case manager at AKA Case Management, told Insider, adding: "It's honestly changed my life." Sims said the extra day off had improved her mental health, eased her stress levels, and left her with a new perspective.
"I used to find myself catching up with work on a Sunday — but now I'm never tempted to use my extra day off to work," she said. "I would say it's changed my attitude toward how I work."
Sims was among nearly 2,900 people who took part in a four-day-workweek trial in the UK. Workers participating in the study, which ran from June to December, saw their weekly working hours reduced to an average of 34 a week without a pay cut.
The study was led by academics from Boston College, the University of Cambridge, and the research organization Autonomy in partnership with the campaign groups 4 Day Week Global and 4 Day Week Campaign. A representative for the 4 Day Week Campaign put Insider in contact with the four employees that are referenced in this article.
A report from Autonomy laying out survey findings from the trial said that 39% of employees reported feeling less stressed while 71% showed reduced signs of burnout by the end. Workers also reported less frequent anxiety, fatigue, and sleep issues, and more workers reported improvements to mental and physical health over the trial period than reported declines.
All but five of the 61 companies that took part in the trial said they planned to continue with the shorter working week after employee satisfaction improved and revenue broadly remained steady.
Kieran Woof, a senior science-policy officer at the Royal Society of Biology, said the extra day allowed him to do all the things that he hadn't managed to squeeze into a two-day weekend.
"It also means you go back into the working week a lot more energized and mentally a lot more prepared and motivated," he told Insider.
Common concerns around a broader introduction of the four-day workweek are often centered on arguments that the model doesn't work for all industries or can lead to businesses taking on extra costs. Joe Ryle, a director at the 4 Day Week Campaign, said the UK trial sought to address some of these issues.
"It's certainly more difficult to make it work in some sectors," he told Insider. "It's why we wanted to show a variety of different industries. We had companies in manufacturing, retail, hospitality, construction, as well as financial services."
Client-facing companies that operate on a four-day workweek can also face issues if their clients are working five days a week. Both AKA Case Management and the Royal Society of Biology operate on a rota system, so the business stays open and available to clients all week — most employees take Mondays or Fridays off.
Woof said it was difficult to settle into the routine and understand that people wouldn't be around on some days.
"You can be like passing ships with some colleagues," he said. "But I think that's the case for all organizations post-COVID, regardless of if they're doing a four-day week, as so many people are working from home and you don't have that daily interaction."
Another common concern with the working model is that a shorter week risks increasing employee workloads each day as they try to make up for the missing hours, causing more stress. Woof said keeping up with work on a shorter week could sometimes be difficult, especially at the start of the trial.
But, "like anything new, you learn to manage your time and it just means you're much more efficient and productive in those days," he said.
At AKA Case Management, Sims said she had reservations about the trial affecting the day-to-day running of the company.
"I was just worried about the business collapsing," she said, "but management said they wouldn't let that happen." The company ensured there was cover staff available for clients when dedicated case managers were off work and conducted a before-and-after survey to access the company's performance on the reduced work.
Sims' colleague Dominic Hobdell, an operations and finance officer at AKA, said every single one of the metrics put in the survey came back better after the trial than they were before. "Something we weren't expecting," he said.
But the first few weeks of the trial were an adjustment.
"It felt a bit strange having a Monday off — it was like having an extra Sunday but everyone else was working so it felt a bit like a ghost town," he said.
"But once that transition took place, I think everyone's really seen the benefits," he added. Hobdell said he often used the extra day off for things he couldn't do on a weekend, such as booking appointments or going to the gym when it was quiet.
Both the Royal Society of Biology and AKA Case Management say they plan to keep employees on a four-day work schedule.
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