HomeEmployee ExperienceCultureThe 4-day work week is here: A new era of productivity

The 4-day work week is here: A new era of productivity

  • 5 Min Read

Henry Stewart, founder and Chief Happiness Officer of London-based learning provider Happy Ltd., discusses the findings of the 4-day work week trial and how it can succeed across multiple sectors.

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The results of the UK four-day week pilot are in. Of 61 organizations taking part in the UK pilot, 56 are continuing with the four-day week.

Indeed among employees, 90% wanted to continue with the four-day week, versus 0.4% who didn’t. And 93% of staff said they would need a higher salary of at least 10% to return to a five-day week, with 52% saying at least 25% more, and 15% saying no amount of money would be worth it.

As one CEO said: “When you realize that day has allowed you to be relaxed and rested, and ready to absolutely go for it on those other four days, you start to realize that to go back to working on a Friday would feel really wrong – stupid actually”.

The number of staff leaving dropped by 57%. And 48% said they were more satisfied than when they started, with an increase in average rating from 7.1 to 7.7.

Let’s be clear. This is not compressed hours. And it does not involve a reduction in pay. The key concept is 100-80-100: You get 100% of the pay for 80% of the hours, as long as you are 100% as productive.

And that is what the six-month pilot was about. Would people be 100% as productive on just 4 days? From the 92% continuing with it, it is clear that they were.

4-day work week

Happy results

At Happy every member of staff reported that they were getting as much done in 4 days as they previously did in 5, and that they were sticking to their 32 hours whereas they had worked over the previous 37.5 hours.

Now you might say they would say that.

So how are we measuring productivity at Happy? It is fairly simple: are we getting as strong client satisfaction as before and are we getting as much income as before, without having to increase staffing.

The client satisfaction, which we measure based on the Net Promoter Score, has actually gone up.

We have achieved a 42% increase in revenues, with an expected 15% more this year, with no increase in staffing.

That is right. Our people are more productive on 4 days than they used to be on 5.

Now I have to say that we originally did a one-month pilot back in August 2019. Then we didn’t prepare well enough and, while a majority said they were getting as much done as before there were several others who weren’t and found it stressful.

So in 2022 we fully involved our people in several months of preparation. We started with a survey of all staff, to ensure they wanted to do a four day week. 94% said yes.

Reducing distractions

Then we did a lot of work on helping people be more productive, based on the Productivity Blitz that I have delivered to clients for around three years. (And follow-ups find that people are 38 minutes a day more productive as a result of the techniques.)

The key concept is to get deep work done, by focusing and cutting down on distractions (like email, slack and Teams). One idea is the Pomodoro technique, where you time 25 minutes, focus absolutely on what you’ve got to do and then take a 5-minute break after.

Crucial is to remove your email alerts. Unless you are in technical support or customer service, you don’t need to check every email. Or at least you shouldn’t, because email should not be about urgent tasks.

My approach is 321zero: check my email 3 times a day, time 21 minutes and reduce it to zero. It has changed my life.

And then there are meetings. We didn’t have a lot of meetings at Happy, but people still managed to cut them down, by having less meetings, going to less meetings, or reducing the time in meetings.

Now we don’t close down for a day, though some of the pilot organizations did. Some people take Monday off, some take Friday, some take Wednesday. We do expect everybody to be available on a  Tuesday.

There are also some complications around part-time workers, employment contracts, holidays, bank holidays but the pilot companies have managed to resolve all of those.

Would a 4-day workweek work in all sectors?

But would it work for all sectors? That is the key question most of the media has been asking. There is a very interesting book called “Shorter” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, which explains how it has worked in most sectors.

  • Would it work in teaching? Well, there are 25 US states that have some schools that work a four-day week.
  • Would it work for startups? In 2017 Kim Bong-jin, founder of South Korean delivery company Woowa, decided that he was tired of everybody working long hours and would reduce the hours to 35. Revenue continued to grow by 70% and they sold in 2020 for $4 billion.
  • Would it work in health care? There is an interesting example of Glebe in Virginia, who got their nurses to change their hours from 40 to 30, still at the same level of pay.

They did need to hire 9 extra nurses but the extra cost of $145k was almost offset by the £123k reduction in hiring costs, overtime and payments to staffing services. And acquired infections dropped by 65%, with staff turnover falling from 128% to 44%.

Could it work for you? Could you try a six-month trial on the 100-80-100 basis, that it would only continue if people were 100% as productive.


Henry Stewart is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of London-based learning provider Happy Ltd. Happy was rated one of the top 2 workplaces in the UK in 2022, and one of the top 15 in Europe (in the SME section). It now helps other organizations create happy workplaces. Feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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