4-Day Workweek Trials: Here’s How They’re Going

This is a free excerpt from one of Shortform’s Articles. We give you all the important information you need to know about current events and more.

Don't miss out on the whole story. Sign up for a free trial here .

Is a shorter workweek any closer to being a reality? What signs point to “yes”—and what barriers prevent it from happening?

Countries around the globe have been running 4-day workweek trials and touting the benefits for years, yet implementation of the policy has been limited. Barriers to the policy’s implementation are keeping many companies from testing out the new schedule.

Keep reading to learn about the results of the 4-day workweek trials, and why some companies are still reluctant to try it.

Testing the 4-Day Workweek

There’s long been talk about the possibility of shifting to a 4-day workweek. Countries around the globe have done 4-day workweek trials to test the policy to assess its viability, and preliminary research suggests that it produces positive outcomes for employers and workers alike. 


The 4-day workweek has been loosely defined as a decrease in the number of hours that employees work per week or the compression of a standard 40-hour week into fewer days. Experts say that because different companies apply the policy differently, there’s no consistent definition. 

The rising popularity of the 4-day workweek around the globe can be seen in the growing number of countries testing, proposing legislation for, and implementing the policy.

In January, the world’s largest pilot of a shortened workweek found the same benefits as smaller trial programs have shown. In the six-month study, 61 UK companies with 3,000 workers shortened their workweeks by giving employees one day off a week or reducing their hours to an average of 32 a week while maintaining their same pay. Findings included that:

  • Employees’ sleep, stress levels, personal lives, and work-life balance improved.
  • Businesses’ revenue was “broadly the same” during the six-month trial—and increased an average of 35% when compared with previous years. 
  • Fewer workers resigned.

After the study ended: 

  • 56 of the companies said they’d continue the 4-day workweek trial
  • Nearly one-third of employees said they’d only return to a five-day workweek if given a 26% to 50% pay increase. 

A 2023 Washington Post-Ipsos poll of 1,148 full- and part-time US employees subsequently revealed that 75% of workers would prefer to work four 10-hour days over five eight-hour days so long as their pay remained the same as in a five-day workweek.

Ongoing Barriers to a 4-Day Workweek

Although the 4-day workweek is gaining traction, to this point tangible efforts to implement it have been stymied or curbed. Experts say that pushback to the popular policy is due to several factors, including:  

  • Habit. In the US, most companies and organizations have operated on a five-day workweek schedule for close to a century, making overnight change to a new model unlikely. 
  • Employer concerns. Some companies worry that a 4-day workweek will increase costs, decrease worker productivity, won’t yield sustained positive benefits over time, and that it isn’t replicable across all industries. For example,
    • Health care and child care currently suffer staff shortages.  
    • Companies that provide 24-hour services and customer service, like banks, insurance companies, and news organizations can’t shut down one day every week. 
    • Some companies have busy seasons around holidays so can’t implement the policy year round. 
  • Labor concerns. Some unions argue that some 4-day workweek policies don’t always benefit employees—for example, those that increase the length of the workday beyond eight hours. They contend that employees working in physically demanding and dangerous jobs shouldn’t work longer than eight-hour stretches.
  • Worker concerns. Some 4-day week schedules can negatively impact employees by:

Possible Alternatives

One popular alternative to the 4-day workweek is the six-hour workday, which was first trialed by Kellogg’s in the 1930s and then studied in the Swedish nursing home pilot we discussed above. While this may help with fatigue and burnout, it yields less “usable leisure” than the 4-day workweek.

Some companies that tried out 4-day workweeks decided to walk them back but retain some elements. For example, marketing research company Alter Agents found that 4-day weeks ultimately made employees more stressed because work was bleeding into their days off. They ended up giving their staff one day off a month instead, which was infrequent enough that staff felt comfortable using it to rest rather than constantly checking their work email and worrying about falling behind. Similarly, Tower Paddle Boards implemented five-hour days in 2015, but then had to return to a normal schedule when the company nearly went out of business in 2020. Tower CEO Stephan Aarstol later decided to bring back the five-hour day for four months of the year—but he did it in the form of a reward for the whole company when they increased their revenue over the previous year. He found that this approach incentivized efficiency and collaboration within the company.

Others recommend more “bespoke” solutions that are tailored to both the employer and the employee. They comment that a 4-day week might not suit everyone and that flexibility is even more important than time off for many workers. All experts agree, however, that you can’t just adopt a 4-day workweek and hope for the best—these big changes need to be supported by sustainable administrative structures and intelligent use of technology

If we can support a 4-day workweek with technology while amplifying its pros and minimizing its cons, why stop there? According to Tim Ferriss, we can get the workweek down to four hours (though his approach only holds for business owners). If so, we might be closer to Keynes’s three-hour workday prediction than we think.

Looking Ahead

Experts say that although the fight for a 4-day workweek is challenging, a combination of several factors increases its prospects for adoption in the coming years, including that:  

In the meantime, they say, more research is needed to better understand the impact and applicability of the 4-day workweek across a range of industries and with diverse workers.

4-Day Workweek Trials: Here’s How They’re Going

Want to fast-track your learning? With Shortform, you’ll gain insights you won't find anywhere else .

Here's what you’ll get when you sign up for Shortform :

  • Complicated ideas explained in simple and concise ways
  • Smart analysis that connects what you’re reading to other key concepts
  • Writing with zero fluff because we know how important your time is

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.