UK businesses set for four-day week revolution in 2024

2024 could be the year of the four-day week, as research finds a huge number of businesses plan to trial or implement the policy this year.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

The traditional five-day workweek could soon be a relic of the past for a significant chunk of the UK workforce. Research shows 12% of UK businesses plan to adopt a four-day working week in 2024, marking a seismic shift in company attitudes towards flexible working.

Startups surveyed a representative sample of 546 small businesses at the end of 2023. The results indicate that, despite prior concerns over productivity and impact on pay, the four-day week has won over both employees and employers.

The trend underscores a broader effort to improve work-life balance amongst UK workers. The same study also found that 66% of companies will embrace a flexible work model, such as a hybrid or remote policy, in 2024.

What’s behind the four-day week boom?

That 12% of UK small businesses are considering embracing a four-day week in 2024 is significant. Proportional to the current SME population, this would represent a total figure of 660,000 firms and thousands of jobs.

Four-day work weeks have rapidly entered into the mainstream following a successful global trial last year. This interest has particularly accelerated in the UK, due to poor levels of employee engagement.

Record numbers of employees are leaving the workforce due to an increase in levels of burnout and stress. Likely, the crisis will only be exacerbated this January. The beginning of the year is one of the toughest months for career blues.

UK companies with a four-day week cite a multitude of reasons for embracing the shorter workweek, including improved employee wellbeing.

In fact, Startups’ four-day week survey found that the majority of four-day week advocates believe it will help to reduce stress and boost morale.

Interested in working a four-day week this year? Read our guide on how to request a four-day week from your employer.

Stress less, earn more?

The potential impact of the four-day week trend is significant. It could reshape the UK workforce, leading to improved employee morale and a more balanced work-life culture.

Studies also suggest that shorter workweeks can actually lead to productivity gains. With fewer hours to spread themselves thin, employees are forced to prioritise tasks, focus more intently, and ultimately achieve more in less time.

The result may help UK companies square the circle by enhancing employee satisfaction without breaking the bank with increasingly unaffordable salaries.

Challenges of a shrunken workweek

Of course, implementing a four-day week isn’t without its challenges. Businesses need to carefully consider how to distribute tasks, schedule meetings, and maintain operational continuity with fewer working hours.

Additionally, questions around employee pay and benefits during the transition need to be addressed transparently and collaboratively.

Likely, some of the 12% of firms planning to adopt a four-day week this year will opt for pilot programs, testing the four-day week in specific departments before a wider rollout.

Others might choose to explore alternative forms of the shorter week. For example, allowing employees to spread their 40 hours across fewer days or condense them into longer, focused stretches.

You can learn more about a shortened work week and how it might benefit your business in our complete guide to the four-day working week.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.
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