Four-day work week: Who has trialled it and what are the benefits?

A four-day work week is set to be trialled in the UK (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A four-day work week is set to be trialled in the UK (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Over the years, talk of the four-day working week has increased exponentially as employers look for alternative ways of going about their jobs.

Now, 70 companies and more than 3,000 workers are set to participate in the biggest ever four-day working week pilot in the UK.

Employees will continue to receive 100 per cent of their pay as part of the 100:80:100 model which requires staff to work 80 per cent of their previous hours in exchange for a commitment to 100 per cent productivity.

Companies participating in the trial come from a range of sectors, including retail, banking, care, housing, animation, hospitality and many more.

The pilot will run for six months and is being organised by the 4 Day Week Global campaign in conjunction with academics from Oxford and Cambridge universities, Boston College, and think tank Autonomy.

Founded in 2018, 4 Day Week is aiming to create a “new way of working” which its founders believe will improve business productivity and the mental and physical health of employees, creating a “more sustainable work environment”.

Government-backed four-day week trials are also due to begin later this year in Spain and Scotland.

Joe O Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognising that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge.

“The impact of the ‘great resignation’ is now proving that workers from a diverse range of industries can produce better outcomes while working shorter and smarter.”

But how successful is the four-day working week and what other countries are conducting similar schemes? Here’s everything you need to know.

How successful is the four-day working week?

In 2019, Henley Business School at the University of Reading surveyed more than 500 business leaders and more than 2,000 employees in the UK to better understand the impact of the four-day working week on Britain’s workforce.

They found that two thirds of businesses reported improvements in staff productivity, while 78 per cent said staff were happier, less stressed (70 per cent), took fewer days off ill (62 per cent), and that a four-day working week helped them to attract and retain workers (63 per cent).

Almost half (40 per cent) of staff said they used the extra day off to develop professional skills, while a quarter (25 per cent) said they used the extra day to volunteer.

Additional time for activities that improve mental and physical health are also linked to increased productivity. Many participants report better sleep and more time to spend with family and loved ones.

Carbon footprints can also be reduced with fewer commutes and downsized office spaces.

Where else is the four-day week being trialled?


Spain launched a trial for a four-day work week in April last year, following calls from leftwing party Más País.

According to a report from the Guardian, the trial will run over three years, with €50 million (£41 million) allocated to help companies reduce working hours with minimal risk.

New Zealand

Several companies in New Zealand are currently trialing a shorter work week.

In May 2020, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern encouraged companies to consider implementing a four-day work week.

She said the decision ultimately rested with the employers, but “to think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country”.

At the beginning of 2021, Unilever – which has around 80 employees in the country – began a year-long trial of a four-day week.

In a statement announcing the project, the company’s managing director, Nick Bangs, said the move was an “experiment” to see if the trial could bring “material change in the way [people] work”.

“We believe the old ways of working are outdated and no longer fit for purpose,” Bangs said. The company is yet to publish the results of the trial.


The Japanese government unveiled plans to encourage employers to adopt four-day working weeks in its annual economic policy guidelines, published in June 2021.

As reported by The Washington Post, the government is hoping to improve the work-life balance of employees and give them more time to spend with their families and further their education.


In September 2021, the Scottish National Party announced plans to pilot a four-day working scheme, which would only apply to office-based jobs.

According to a survey of 2,203 people, carried out by think tank Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland, 80 per cent of respondents said a shorter working week would positively impact their wellbeing, while 88 per cent said they were willing to take part in the scheme.


A pilot, beginning this February, is being launched by campaign group Four Day Week Ireland. As of October 2021, 17 companies had signed up to the scheme.

Organisers said the project “seeks to understand better the implications of reduced working time for productivity, human wellbeing and environmental sustainability in an Irish context”.

Companies taking part include recruitment firm Yala and Soothing Solutions, a company which manufactures cough and sore throat products for young children.

Where has a shorter work week been successful?


From 2015-2019 workplaces in Iceland ran two large-scale trials of a reduced working week from 40 hours to 35-36 hours, with no reduction in pay.

Analysis of the results was published by think tank Autonomy and research organisation Association for Sustainability and Democracy in July 2021.

The trials – involving 2,500 employees – were deemed an “overwhelming success”, with 86 per cent of the country’s workforce now working shorter hours or being given the right to shorten their hours.

Importantly, the report found that productivity of employees remained the same or improved across most workplaces. Additionally, employees said their wellbeing and work-life balance had dramatically increased, with fewer instances of stress and burnout.

Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said the trial showed that “lessons can be learned for other governments”.

“Iceland has taken a big step towards the four-day working week, providing a great real-life example for Local Councils and those in the UK public sector considering implementing it here in the UK,” he said.