Can a 4-day workweek provide health benefits to employees?

A recent study, conducted by non-profit 4 Day Week Global, finds that employees who transitioned to a four-day workweek clocked nearly eight hours of sleep per night, an hour more than they slept while working five days a week.

4 Day Week Global, which has been testing the feasibility of a four-day week as part of the future of work, commissioned economist Juliet Schor to survey 304 workers at 16 companies in the United Kingdom who are participating in a six-month trial of the shorter workweek.

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In addition, starting this week, more than 60 companies in North America are getting an extra day off per week with no loss of pay, according to the organization. That includes a group of nearly 30 employers that had started their journey earlier this year.

U.S. companies participating in the study include media and publishing group Search Engine Journal, education technology Immersed Games and corporate training company SIY Global. Canadian participants include creative services firm PRAXIS, tech/SaaS company Produce8, and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

At the survey’s halfway point this week, 4 Day Week Global reports that 88% of respondents say the four-day week is working “well” for their business so far, and 95% saying business productivity has “maintained around the same level” (46%), has “improved slightly” (34%) or “improved significantly” (15%).

Sleep deprivation also fell drastically for those in the study who made the switch. The percentage of those who had been getting less than seven hours of sleep a night decreased from 42.6% to 14.5%.

Some experts have said the four-day model offers a range of potential benefits, including helping employers meet the evolving needs of employees, which can support overall DE&I objectives and improve worker health and wellbeing.

Jackie Reinberg, senior director at WTW, points to some pilot studies that have found four-day weeks can improve productivity. Microsoft’s trial in Japan, for example, found workers were happier—and 40% more productive.

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At the same time, Reinberg says, not all employees are disciplined or structured enough to manage the ambiguity of blurred lines in this type of schedule. And, if expectations are that the four working days will be longer, that could drive up employee stress.

“Also, not all jobs/organizations lend themselves to this work arrangement,” she adds. “Less seasoned or tenured colleagues may struggle as the need to inquire or ask for help may be uncomfortable, so curiosity and asking questions needs to be encouraged.”

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Nick Otto
Nick Otto is HRE’s former senior digital editor. He is a professional communicator with more than a decade of demonstrated accomplishments in newspaper and trade publishing. He has spent the past five years covering the employee benefits space and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.