A South African study has proven that four-day workweeks are just as productive as traditional, five-day workweeks. The pilot program offered employees a flexible workweek, in which they could pick which days they worked. Researchers found that less than 1 in 4 workers opted to end their week on Thursday.
More than 28 companies participated in the six-month program, Black Enterprise reported. The study allowed employees to work when they wanted without any loss of pay. Before the trial, participants completed a planning and work practice facilitated by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global.
The practice was two months long and included workshops, coaching, mentoring and peer support. The majority of participants (around 71%) were women. Most participants worked in the professional, IT, marketing and financial services industries.
Boston College researchers were also involved in the study, Clockwise reported.
“The results have been impressive. While hours didn’t fall by the full eight per week, employees did see improvements in virtually all our measures of well-being, stress, burnout, fatigue, anxiety, mental health, work-family balance, sleep problems and exercise frequency,” Professor Juliet Schor, a lead quantitative researcher at Boston College, said of the study. “One of the strongest results is a large improvement in self-reported productivity, without much increase in work intensity.”
Participants were required to maintain their deliverables while experiencing a 20% decrease in time at work. Many companies didn’t believe the new flexible schedule would positively affect growing productivity, a significant challenge in South Africa.
After the program’s completion, almost all participants (92%) of the participating employers decided to keep the scaled-down work schedules moving forward.
“This research represents a pivotal moment not just for South Africa but for the entire continent and global community,” 4 Day Week Global CEO Dale Whelehan said.
Similar four-day global pilot programs are occurring worldwide, Euronews reported. Some countries, including Germany and Belgium, have shifted to the four-day workweek. The UK has wrapped up its pilot program, concluding it to be an “extreme success,” while others, like Spain and Portugal, are gearing up to enter the pilot phase.