The Science Behind A Four-Day Work Week

Thanks to technology, the workplace has forever been changed and we are now seeing a new generation take over, implementing their fresh ideas. These ‘millennials’ tend to do things differently from the norm, favouring jobs which offer flexible hours and non-routine-based work.

While this may leave many current bosses feeling disgruntled, there’s no escaping it – this generation represent the changing of times. Whether bosses like it or not, if the workplace doesn’t want to get left behind, it’s important for their ideas to be listened to.

Busy architects working within a four-day workweek policy

The Debate: Old vs. new

One of the biggest debates to have come out in recent years is whether businesses should reduce the traditional five-day working week down to four-days. Many millennials now no longer believe that a five-day work week is necessary, and instead argue that workers should have more time to spend with their friends and family.

While this may sound great – having an extra day off before the weekend – questions still remain as to how practical a four-day work week would actually be. In this article, we will take a look at the research that has gone before, determining once and for all whether the workplace should adopt a four-day working week.

Study 1: Perpetual Guardian

Back in 2018, a New Zealand-based business proved that less really is more. After deciding to adopt a four-day working week over a six-week period, the financial services firm found that working one less workday increased employee productivity levels by more than 20%.

The study, ran in collaboration with the University of Auckland, determined that, despite having less time available to complete work, employees were actually much happier and better motivated to cut down on lost time – shortening meetings and telling colleagues to go away when they were being distracting.

The researchers also found that staff had an improved attitude towards work, with 78% of workers stating they were better able to balance their work and home life. This marked a 22% improvement from the beginning of the experiment, and was hypothesised to employees having more time to complete home-based tasks.

Study 2: Pursuit Marketing

As a result of the rising issue of mental health in the workplace, a Glasgow-based marketing firm decided to monitor the impact of a four-day work week on employee health.

Pursuit Marketing’s study found that, since adopting a four-day work week back in 2016, their employees now take a significantly lower number of days off sick. In fact, the marketing firm report that, coupled with this reduced level of sickness leave, workplace productivity has actually increased by 30% in that time as well – a finding which correlates with Perpetual Guardian’s findings.

Business team having a meeting at a comfortable office space

Study 3: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Following a recent report into productivity, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that several countries – such as the Netherlands – showed extremely high productivity numbers, despite logging fewer hours at work. This suggests that, in general, happy employees who work shorter workweeks are more productive than stressed employees who have to work overtime.

OECD’s report also found that Scandinavian countries – which work a lower average of 33 hours per week – report less stress, a better work-life balance and more overall happiness. This, in turn, leads to improved employee retention rates and the prevention of many mental health-related conditions.

Study 4: UK Trade Union Council

The UK’s Trade Union Council recently ran a survey of its own members, questioning which changes should be made to the current workplace to best benefit workers. The results of this survey found the four-day work week to be by far the most popular option, with 81% of respondents stating that they’d like a reduction of at least one day a week.

The study didn’t, however, question the complex effects of actually implementing a four-day work week – it only ascertained the popularity of the idea.

Man smiling while taking a breather from work


A four-day work week is a dream situation for most people, and research only appears to highlight its benefits. From fewer sick days to increased productivity, it’s difficult to deny the advantages that a reduced working week could provide.

While it may be true that it’s not suitable for every business, you can’t really argue with the science. Giving employees the flexibility to decide how and when they work could not only improve their overall happiness, but it could enhance their output as well, which can only be a good thing.