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Department of Sociology

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A team of Cambridge social scientists led by Prof Brendan Burchell, Department of Sociology, have been conducting research on the world’s largest trial of a four-day working week.

Last year, 61 organisations in the UK committed to a 20% reduction in working hours for all staff for six months.  With no fall in wages. 

The findings suggest that a four-day week significantly reduces stress and illness in the workforce, and helps with worker retention.  Some 71% of employees self-reported lower levels of “burnout”, and 39% said they were less stressed, compared to the start of the trial.  Researchers found a 65% reduction in sick days, and a 57% fall in the number of staff leaving participating companies, compared to the same period the previous year.  Company revenue barely changed during the trial period – even increasing marginally by 1.4% on average for the 23 organisations able to provide data. 

In a report of the results presented to UK lawmakers, some 92% of companies that took part in the UK pilot programme (56 out of 61) say they intend to continue with the four-day working week, with 18 companies confirming the change as permanent.

Research for the UK trials was conducted by a team of social scientists from the University of Cambridge, working with academics from Boston College in the US and the think tank Autonomy.

The trial was organised by 4 Day Week Global in conjunction with the UK’s 4 Day Week Campaign, and ran between June and December 2022.

Companies from across the UK took part, with around 2,900 employees dropping a day of work. Organisations involved in the trial ranged from online retailers and financial service providers to animation studios and a local fish-and-chip shop.  Other industries represented include consultancy, housing, IT, skincare, recruitment, hospitality, marketing, and healthcare.

Researchers surveyed employees throughout the trial to gauge the effects of having an extra day of free time. Self-reported levels of anxiety and fatigue decreased across workforces, while mental and physical health improved.  Many survey respondents said they found it easier to balance work with both family and social commitments: 60% of employees found an increased ability to combine paid work with care responsibilities, and 62% reported it easier to combine work with social life.

“Before the trial, many questioned whether we would see an increase in productivity to offset the reduction in working time – but this is exactly what we found,” said Prof Brendan Burchell.

Please read the full article by Fred Lewsey for the University of Cambridge website here.


A selection of recent press coverage:

Four-day week: ‘major breakthrough’ as most UK firms in trial extend changes | Work-life balance | The Guardian

Over 90% of firms stick to four-day week after trial ends | UK | News |

Most UK companies involved in four-day week trial to stick with shorter week | Evening Standard

Four-day working week really DOES work, major six-month trial across 61 UK companies reveals  | Daily Mail Online

Nearly all firms stick with four-day week after 'incredible' trial of shorter hours - Mirror Online

Most companies in UK four-day week trial to continue with flexible working | Financial Times (

"The four-day week was a game changer": How results of UK trial could change the way we work - Business Live (

Four-day working week trial led to less stress, better health and higher profits, firms say (