Four-Day Work Week: UK survey reveals high appetite, but confusion over pay Workers in the UK think a four-day work week would bring improved work-life balance, yet lack confidence in their employer to properly implement it. Written by Helena Young Updated on 22 May 2023 Our experts We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. Written and reviewed by: Helena Young Lead Writer Almost eight in ten employees (78%) would be in favour of a four-day working week, but are unclear what the policy looks like in practice, according to a new survey conducted by Startups.co.uk.In collaboration with YouGov, we asked a representative sample of 530 employees about their current attitudes to a four-day work week. By examining factors like gender, age, and job role, we were able to quantify workers’ attitudes to adopt a four-day week, including the arguments for and against implementation.Four-day work weeks have rapidly entered into the mainstream following a successful global trial last year. However, our research shows there remains significant blockers to large-scale rollout. Most notably, there’s a widespread lack of confidence that companies will be able to enact the policy effectively. We've found: 78% of employees want a four-day work week, but only 30% say they feel confident their employer could successfully implement itThose in favour of a four-day working week want a better work-life balance (61%) and more time for personal interests and hobbies (40%)53% of employees are concerned about a potential reduction in pay, despite the concept of a four-day work week specifying no lost wages52% of employees would actively seek future employment from a business offering a four-day working weekGenerationally, a four-day week is most attractive to Gen Z employees, with 58% reporting they would actively seek new employment for the perk5% more women than men would use a four-day working week to save money on childcare costs. This gap rises to 12% for director-level roles Support has been building for a four-day work week since the trial ended last December. Proponents believe it leads to a better work-life balance and reduced stress. But our research shows many employees – even those who back the policy – incorrectly assume these benefits would go hand-in-hand with a pay cut and an increased risk of working overtime.With seven in ten staff members planning to request the perk this year, employers need to educate themselves on the strengths and weaknesses of a shortened week, and fast, to stay ahead of this trend. This article will cover: Why do employees want a four-day week? Why do employees not want a four-day week? Could employers really introduce a four-day week? Is there a generational divide? What do working parents think? How do remote vs. non-remote attitudes differ? Is today's economy affecting four-day week popularity? How should employers react to the findings? What would a four-day week give employees?According to our survey findings, of those who are in favour of a four-day working week, the majority believe it would lead to a better work-life balance at 61%. This is followed by 40% seeing the benefit as a way to make time for personal pursuits and hobbies.Those who are strongly in favour are most likely to view a four-day week as a strategy to reduce stress and burnout (59%), suggesting that cutting working hours could make a big difference when it comes to improving employee mental health and wellbeing.In today’s hybrid working world, the line between our professional and personal lives has been blurred. As a result, workers are actively seeking out more flexible ways of working to make managing both priorities easier. A four-day work week is an appealing solution.Jack Lumb, who works at a marketing agency in London, agrees with this assessment. “You can often find during the working week that you spend your weekend catching up on personal admin rather than relaxing or partaking in recreational activities,” he says. “Having an extra day could be an excellent option for reducing stress and improving mental health.”🔎 If a four-day working week was available in your workplace, what would be the most significant reason for you to opt for it?Reduced stress and burnout14%Reduced commuting time and expenses38%Increased productivity and creativity5%Increased work-life balance61%Child care / and or adult care17%More time for personal pursuits and hobbies40%More control of working hours9%Secondary source of income5%Higher job satisfaction5%Contribution to environmental sustainability5% Misunderstandings about four-day work week trigger employee scepticismDespite the understandable interest in a four-day week among employees, our research highlights a huge degree of miscomprehension about how the policy works.Concerningly, the majority of respondents to our survey assume that a four-day week means they will be paid less money. Our results found 53% were worried about a potential loss of earnings.In fact, among our respondents, 33% of those opposing a four-day week said they would take a second job if a four-day week was introduced by their employer. This suggests that misunderstandings about a reduction of income could be a deterrent.🔎 If your organisation decided to implement a four-day workweek for its employees, what would be your biggest concern or issue?Worried about spending more money3%Reduction in pay52%More hours worked10%Less time spent with colleagues4%More stress6%No impact21%Potential boredom2%Less structured working hours2%Employees are somewhat confident they would remain productive during a four-day week, as 30% say they would not have to work any additional hours. However, the remaining 70% of employees believe they will work at least one extra hour per week to compensate for time lost. 70% of employees believe they will work at least one extra hour per week to compensate for ‘lost hours’. Level of seniority appears to influence opinion on how productivity might be affected by a four-day week. Some 36% of those working at an individual contributor level believe no additional hours would need to be worked to make up for working a four-day week, compared to 17% of company partners or owners.🔎 If you were on a four-day work week, how many hours do you anticipate working beyond your scheduled hours?Less than 2 hours2 - 4 hours5 - 6 hours6+ hoursNo additional hoursIndividual Contributor %16%28%7%12%36%Manager %18%32%14%11%25%Director/Head of %20%48%16%4%12%Partner/Owner %22%22%17%22%17%Astonishingly, 48% of directors felt they will have to work 2-4 additional hours – potentially up to half a day’s work – to catch up on the lost day. Even so, respondents at director level are still overwhelmingly pro the four-day work week, with 72% voting in favour of the policy.That said, the perception of reduced hours as a form of ‘bunking off early' is putting some workers off.El Gray, a researcher who is based in London, admits that “if the four-day working week is seen as ‘lazy’, I would be less inclined to choose it. How you are seen to perform in the workplace is incredibly important.”What’s behind the confusion?Misuse of the four-day week by early adopters could be to blame for employees’ confusion. Many of the employers introducing a four-day week in 2023, like retail giant Sainsbury’s, wrongly conflate the policy with flexi-time.In reality, if a company knows how to properly execute a four-day week, a full-time employee will work reduced hours (around 28 hours over four-days). Essentially, they will have a three-day weekend and wages will remain the same.Media coverage of early four-week adopters has gone some way towards educating employers and senior leaders on the benefits and practicalities of implementing a shortened work week. Autonomy’s six-month-long trial of the perk, in which 61 companies took part last year, appears to have had an impact on employee understanding.Sales manager, Alex Watt says the results of the trial, “make an even stronger case for a four-day week and makes me want one to be implemented even more.” Eagerness to adopt a four-day week tempered by employer mistrustStaff might be overwhelmingly in favour of a four-day week. But, 48% of the employees we spoke to have little to no confidence that their employer could successfully implement a four-day week within their organisation. 48% of the employees we spoke to have little to no confidence that their employer could successfully implement a four-day. From those who lack this confidence, their top reasons for wanting the benefit were higher job satisfaction (38%) and reduced stress and burnout (41%).This indicates that, where employees don't trust the employer to implement a four-day week, they are more likely to currently feel dissatisfied in their roles and experience regular burnout.Distrustful working atmospheres can create a highly undesirable environment for everyone. These kinds of companies are more likely to display poor employee engagement and a negative organisational culture.A four-day week might be the key to fixing poor trust amongst employees. Introducing policies which prioritise staff wellbeing is proven to have a positive impact on job satisfaction and employee commitment, as workers feel more valued and appreciated. Workers from every age group would quit their jobs for a four-day work week – except boomersWith the four-day week gaining momentum amongst workers, the majority (52%) of respondents told us they’d be willing to quit to get it. This statistic should make employers sit up and take notice, particularly in light of increasing staff turnover rates.Business struggles to access talent have been heightened by today’s fast-moving jobs landscape, as candidates call the shots and demand greater choice over when and where their work is carried out.Gen Z respondents were most likely to seek out a job with a new company if it would allow them to work a four-day week.58% of people in this age group said they would actively search for a new role with another employer offering a four-day week, compared to an average of 50% across all other age groups.Boomers, the oldest generation currently in the workforce, are the most likely to oppose switching careers for a four-day work week.Almost a third said that a four-day work week was unlikely or very unlikely to persuade them to look for a new role. This is considerably lower than Gen Z (19%), Millennial (15%), and Gen X (19%) respondents.These findings are reflected in a poll by household money-saving tool Nous.co, which revealed a big generational gap in attitudes towards employee benefits and perks. Some 71% of Gen Zers consider non-salary benefits to be important, compared to 36% of 55-64s.🔎 How likely are you to actively seek out a job with a company that offers a four-day work week?Likely or very likelyNot likely or very unlikelyGen Z %58%19%Millennials %53%15%Gen X %54%19%Boomers %45%31%Declining appetite for a four-day working week, decreasing the older a person gets, is a strong indication of a change in the tide towards a flexible working model.The shift is most extreme among 18 to 34-year-olds, who no longer want a traditional nine-to-five job. Gen Z employees, who joined the workforce just in time for the post-COVID era of remote/hybrid working, have been quicker to embrace flexible working than older colleagues.As evidence, this group was also the least worried about the potential for a four-day week to lead to a reduced structure of working hours, indicating that they are more open to flexible ways of working.🔎 What would be your main reason to opt-in to a four-day work week?Gen Z %Millennials %Gen X %Boomers %Reduced stress and burnout16%6%3%9%Reduced commuting time and expenses21%21%19%20%Increased productivity and creativity7%2%3%2%Increased work-life balance19%26%34%33%Child care / and or adult care9%13%8%2%More time for charity or community work5%0%0%0%More time for personal pursuits and hobbies16%17%21%21%More control of working hours2%9%3%3%Secondary source of income5%3%3%4%Higher job satisfaction0%3%2%4%Contribution to sustainability0%2%4%2%Gen Z respondents were the most likely to want a four-day work week for financial reasons. Some 26% said they would like a shortened work week as a way to reduce commuting expenses, or to make time for a secondary source of income.This youngest age bracket was also more than twice as likely to worry about potentially spending more money if a four-day week were to be introduced, compared to Boomers. Earlier this year, we reported that today’s UK graduates expect around £5,000 more than the typical starting salary offered by employers.Matt Reed is a Gen Z employee who is currently living in London. Reed says he has taken a side gig to supplement his full-time job as a writer due to the current economic difficulties.“I have found some freelance opportunities outside my regular working hours,” he reports. “My current wage doesn’t go far for someone living in London so it has helped during those cost of living increases. Most notably, with rising food prices.” Employees could save on child care – but more women will end up doing itHiked childcare costs have been making life a misery for working parents, as a lack of early-years-care provisions sends nursery fees skyrocketing to an average of £105.76 per week in 2022. This is 16% of the median weekly wage for a private sector employee.The crisis is having the biggest impact on working mothers. AIG's study of over 3,000 employees found women are nearly three times more likely to have to reduce their hours to look after children – one of the biggest contributors to the gender pay gap.A four-day work week could take away the pressure some women already feel to have to reduce their hours – in this case, without sacrificing pay.After improvements to work-life balance, the second most popular option that women gave for choosing to opt into a four-day week revolved around family support. We found that 5% more women than men see the value of a four-day working week to support child/adult care responsibilities. The gap rises to 12% at director level.Meanwhile, men were 11% more likely to label having more time to support their personal hobbies and interests as their main motivator.🔎 If a four-day working week were available in your workplace, why would you opt for it? (Men vs. Women).Male %Female %% difference (Men vs Women)Reduced stress and burnout3%9%-6%Reduced commuting time and expenses22%18%3%Increased productivity and creativity3%2%0%Increased work-life balance26%33%-8%Child care / and or adult care6%11%-5%More time for personal pursuits and hobbies25%14%11%Second source of income4%3%1%Contribution to environmental sustainability4%1%3%Holly Boultwood is a content director at a global tech firm. She first worked a compressed four-day week when returning from maternity leave, but then went part-time due to the costs of full-time childcare.“The decision to reduce my hours from compressed to a four-day week was a challenging one,” Boultwood relates, “as it comes with a salary reduction. But it felt like it was important for work-life balance.”Our findings suggest that a four-day work week would go some way to redress such scenarios.Should a four-day week be implemented, parents like Holly, who are balancing childcare costs, may not need to work fewer days or take a salary cut. Instead, they can care for their children on the fifth day. Non-remote workers want a four-day week, but don’t trust their employer to implement itOur survey found that fully in-office teams have the lowest amount of confidence that their employer could successfully implement a four-day work week. According to our results, just 25% of in-office workers were confident the policy could be rolled out well, versus 39% of remote or hybrid workers.One of the main criticisms of the four-day week model is that it will work better for industries where team members are not required to work in-person.Where a staff member’s presence is required to carry out specific tasks (for example, warehouse operatives or restaurant wait staff) it is more difficult for businesses to accommodate rota gaps.However, a significant percentage of the group who were strongly or somewhat in favour of a four-day work week also work fully in-office (49%). This suggests that the policy should not be dismissed too easily by employers in non-remote industries.🔎 What is your current working model, and how in favour are you of a four-day work week? Strongly in favourSomewhat in favourNeutralSomewhat opposeStrongly oppose% full-time employees who work remote48%49%42%52%40%% full-time employees who work non-remote45%41%51%33%60%Part-time workers7%10%7%15%0%Overall, 33% of employees who work within either a hybrid or remote capacity, argue that being offered a four-day working week would enable a better work-life balance.Of those individuals who have no remote working model, the majority also say that a four-day week would give them more time back. They cite reduced commuting time, and extra time for hobbies as the main motivators.🔎 What is your current working model, and what would be the main reason for you to opt-in to a four-day work week? Exclusively in-person workingRemote / hybrid workingReduced stress and burnout9%4%Reduced commuting time and expenses21%19%Increased productivity and creativity3%2%Increased work-life balance29%33%Child care / and or adult care7%10%More time for personal pursuits and hobbies23%16%More control of working hours3%6%Secondary source of income3%4%Higher job satisfaction2%4%Contribution to environment0%3%Some 44% of respondents who are fully-remote also specified that a four-day work week would help them to better balance personal and professional commitments.Similar to a four-day week, the sudden shift to a work from home model has been praised as a way to measure employee’s performance by their productivity and output, not just time spent in the office.But, with the lines between work and home life now perhaps irreversibly blurred, our findings suggest that remote-workers are still struggling to switch off. Findings suggest business confidence is tied to employee trustThe UK economy has taken a battering over the past year, after the Bank of England (BoE) raised interest rates to counter the record-high inflation rate. As a result, business confidence remains negative, as pessimism outweighs optimism amongst senior leaders.Our findings suggest that UK workers are taking a similar outlook. Low employee confidence in employers to successfully implement a four-day work week might reflect concerns about how companies would handle a big strategy change without risking cash flow.Startups spoke to one employee at a publishing company, who preferred not to be named. They said they did not think a four-day week was feasible in the current financial climate. “With many costs being cut by companies and roles being reduced, I can’t imagine the desire to pay previously agreed salaries for less working hours.”However, the results from Autonomy’s four-day week UK trial (involving around 2,900 workers) tell a very different story of the impact on company balance sheets. Post-study, organisations reported revenue increases of 35% on average, compared to the same period last year, indicating that participating firms saw an uplift in productivity and output.Tellingly, 56 of these businesses chose to continue with the four-day week on a trial basis, while 18 confirmed the strategy would be a permanent change. How should employers react to the findings?Any change to employment policy has major repercussions for businesses. We’re not saying employers should begin slapping a four-day week sticker onto job adverts from tomorrow.Still, it is vital for business owners to stay alert to the changing expectations of their staff members – particularly as organisations grapple with a hiring crisis that has triggered major worker shortages.According to our results, today’s employees overwhelmingly lack confidence in their employer to implement a four-day week effectively, and worry about sacrificing their own pay or needing to work more hours. The findings also suggest that, where trust is lower in the employer, employee dissatisfaction tends to be higher.These findings are an impetus for business owners to educate themselves on the benefits of a four-day week, and how it might be used to ease recruitment challenges and boost staff morale.How to implement a four-day weekTrialling a four-day week is the most common approach taken by business owners in order to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses. Undoubtedly, the policy will not work for every firm. But companies must not underestimate the grip that progressive flexible working policies now have over jobseekers.You might not move to a four-day week straight away. Nonetheless, a test run could also be a catalyst for organisational change, empowering staff to think about how they might be more productive day-to-day to manage work-life commitments.Workflow tools including project management software can help with the transition by ensuring that employees stay on top of deadlines and responsibilities. Implementing clear task tracking can reduce the risk of a drop in productivity during the changeover from five to four working days.We’ll be carrying out the same survey in six months’ time, to bring small businesses an accurate and up-to-date picture of this fast-moving policy, and eliminate confusion around how to implement it successfully.For more information about the research in this article, please contact email@example.com for a full breakdown of our results. Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Tags News and Features Written by: Helena Young Lead Writer 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.