Majority of UK workers in favour of four-day week, research shows

Poll also finds most employees are confident they could do their job within less time

Credit: Sinsee Ho/iStockphoto/Getty Images

Almost three-quarters of UK workers are in favour of a four-day working week, research has found. 

A survey of 2,000 workers, conducted by comparison site NerdWallet, revealed that 72 per cent of the 1,310 respondents who currently work five or more days per week were either in favour or strongly in favour of a four-day working week. 

Employees also expressed confidence in their ability to fulfil their work duties within less time, with three in five (60 per cent) of those surveyed believing they could do the job they do now in just four days. 

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Shedding a light on gender differences, the findings also showed that women were slightly more confident in their ability to successfully work within four days (64 per cent) compared to men (61 per cent).

However, more than half (53 per cent) of workers expressed doubt that their employer would consider adopting a four-day schedule, saying they would need to move jobs to be offered this working arrangement.

And two in five (38 per cent) workers were unsure whether they would need to move jobs to work one fewer day, whereas just 8 per cent said they would not need to leave their job, as their employer was considering implementing the change.

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Connor Campbell, writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet, said the findings emphasised the “large appetite” for the four-day working week, also highlighting that more than 3,000 employees at 70 UK companies were currently taking part in a trial of a four-day working week run by 4 Day Week Global, which is assessing workers’ performance and work-life balance, among other indicators.

“Workers in the UK are seemingly confident about their ability to work smarter, rather than harder, so employers may want to take notice of their workers’ needs to avoid potential resignations and moves to businesses that can accommodate shorter working weeks,” Campbell said.

When asked what level of pay cut they would be willing to take to work a four-day-week, women were more likely to still seek their full wage. If a pay cut were offered by employers in exchange for a four-day-week, two-thirds of women (66 per cent) said they would not agree with the arrangements, compared to 56 per cent of men.

While many were enthusiastic about the idea of a four-day week, a separate study by Reed of more than 2,000 UK workers recently showed that jobseekers would rather have flexible working over a four-day working week.

The recruitment company found that the phrase ‘flexible working’ on a job advert would most likely make workers apply, with 45 per cent saying it would convince them. A four-day week came in second (40 per cent), working from home third and the opportunity to progress further falling down the list.

Acknowledging the benefits of the four-day week, Jonathan Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, billed the approach a “no-brainer for employees”.

“Fewer hours for the same money is an unambiguous win. Unfortunately for them, employers need more convincing. The current trials are an attempt to plug the evidence gap and make a stronger case for the benefits,” Boys said.

At the same time, he warned that the working approach might not be universal, saying that “like home working, some businesses will be more amenable than others”.

Echoing this, Richard Kay, a senior associate specialising in employment law at Forbes Solicitors, cautioned that a shift to a four-day week would have significant ramifications for employment terms and conditions with complexities for both staff and employers. 

Kay said: “Both parties must think about the worst-case scenario of productivity dropping to a point where it significantly compromises the operation of the company. If a decline in performance starts to jeopardise revenue, how does the company address this?” 

He added that it was plausible that some employees may feel unable to maintain productivity during a shorter week. “This could lead to extra hours being crammed into four days, and may also risk stress and anxiety issues,” he said.