Four day work week trials: who has given up already?

As Morrisons puts an end to its four day working week after complaints about weekend shifts, we explore the other sectors currently struggling with the shift.

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In a bid to offer a better work-life balance, Morrisons introduced a four day working week in 2020, for those in its head office in West Yorkshire. But, there was one caveat. 

Staff were required to work one Saturday every four weeks to support their supermarket teams, totalling 13 Saturdays a year. This ended up skewering the supposed work-life balance gains, leading to Morrisons now deciding to scrap the trial, as was announced yesterday.

Implementing a four day working week is clearly a test of nerve. As more businesses consider the merits of a four day week, many will be worried about the right way of going about it – and the risks of rolling back after giving staff a taste. 

Some governmental departments and commercial companies have already danced around the four day week with the traditional two-step: one step forward, two steps back. Here are just a few.

Companies that ended the four day work week experiment

From unexpected hurdles to unanticipated impacts on team dynamics, let’s discover the stories of companies that abandoned the four day workweek:

Alter Agents

Rebecca Brooks, founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based marketing research firm Alter Agents, led her team of 23 employees through a transition to remote work when COVID-19 emerged, ultimately choosing to remain fully remote. Facing the challenges of the new work environment, Brooks explored the concept of a four day workweek as a potential solution over a 10-week experiment.

Despite the positive anticipation, the outcomes varied among employees. While some maintained a healthy balance, others struggled to set boundaries on their day off, leading to confusion and frustration within the team. 

Ultimately, the attempt at a four day work week did not achieve the intended goal of reducing stress, and employee satisfaction declined. The experiment highlighted the need for a more structured approach to ensure the success of alternative work arrangements.


Despite their best intentions, Mark, Paul, and Lachy, Managing Directors of Yarno, found it challenging to take Fridays off because their company was still in the startup phase. The team needed to actively engage with clients and various meetings throughout the week. They found they couldn’t afford the luxury of a day off as they navigated the early stages of their venture. 

Lachy began to worry that this inconsistency might breed resentment among the team, which was counter to the original hope that a four day work week might invigorate and inspire the team. 

In hindsight, Gray realised the significant difference between enjoying Fridays off in an established business versus a fledgling startup. Even when taking a day off, the demands of running a startup kept his mind actively engaged.


In mid-2016, Treehouse, an online learning platform, showcased a compelling model by achieving notable success with 87 staff members and $10 million in revenue while operating on a reduced work schedule. 

Regrettably, the positive momentum was abruptly halted in September 2016 when Treehouse reverted to a traditional five-day work week, coupled with the unfortunate layoff of 22 employees. 

CEO Ryan Carson, guided by a commitment to fairness, made the decision to align the company’s work structure with its workforce adjustments, deeming it inappropriate to maintain a four day work week amidst company layoffs.


Allcap, an engineering and industrial supplies company in Gloucester, joined the UK’s four day workweek trial in June 2022. Despite the challenges of implementing the program across five sites, Managing Director Mark Roderick sought to provide his 40-strong team with extra rest days after their intense efforts during the pandemic. 

Instead of a three-day weekend, Allcap employees enjoyed one working day off every fortnight. However, employees then experienced nine intense workdays in a cycle, involving milling machines, trade counters, and around-the-clock deliveries. 

Ultimately, Allcap discontinued the trial two months earlier than timetabled at its main trade sites. That said, its warehouse and manufacturing centres continued with the four day week model. 


Krystal, a London-based technology company, initiated a new work approach on 1 June, intending to conduct a six-week trial. However, after four months, they decided to cancel the trial and revert to a traditional five-day working week due to increased stress among their staff. 

The company’s founder, Simon Blackler, initially expressed optimism in a blog post, hoping that the change would result in energised employees delivering higher service levels. 

Unfortunately, Blackler later admitted that the trial did not yield the expected outcomes. In an email to customers, he acknowledged that while the team enjoyed an extra day off, the additional recovery time did not compensate for the 20% increase in output necessary, and led to heightened stress, contradicting their initial goals.

Morrisons blinks but four day week continues

Despite these cases of businesses giving up after initial trials, the movement towards the four day work week continues to have momentum.

Morrisons’ decision to roll back on its four day week perk for head office staff comes just days after Asda announced it was embracing the concept. As part of Asda’s “case for change,” Asda declared that some employees will now enjoy flexible working hours and shorter shifts. 

The four day movement however, goes far beyond a supermarket rivalry.

The idea was first floated after the pandemic, where it had become evident that ways of working could be altered for better employee wellbeing and mental health – without impacting workflow. The shift to remote work and hybrid work styles was already well underway, but a more novel idea emerged of how to support employees’ work-life balance.

A 2022 trial involving 61 UK companies and around 2,900 workers was launched to decrease the work-week nationally from five days to four. 

Today, 56 of these firms from the original trial have decided to continue with the four day work week, or with other forms of flexible working arrangements.

Written by:
Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 14 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.

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