Printed calendar for a 4 day working week showing weekend days in red in new approach to productivity

On Monday of this week, the United Kingdom launched the largest trial run globally to-date for a four-day workweek. The trial, which will pay over 3,300 employees in a variety of sectors their 100 percent typical compensation, is based on the agreement that those employees would maintain their same level of productivity as if it were a five-day workweek, CNN Business reports.

Should it arrive in the United States, a four-day workweek would have significant implications — not only for office workers, but it would likely require frontline workers to adjust typical work hours and what tasks are required in the affected facilities on any given day.

Nearly all U.S. employees (92 percent) say they want a four-day workweek, citing improved mental health and increased productivity as the perceived benefits, according to new research from Qualtrics. Three out of four employees (74 percent) say they would be able to complete the same amount of work in four days, but most (72 percent) say they would have to work longer hours on workdays to do so. See the full study results here.

In today’s competitive labor market, flexibility over when they work is among workers’ most common requests. Ultimately, increased flexibility beats out a set four-day workweek for more employees. When asked to choose between the two, 47 percent say they’d prefer a four-day workweek, compared to 50 percent who would rather have increased flexibility to work when they want.

Despite the popularity of the idea, many employees fear a shorter workweek could have a negative impact on the company’s bottom line and relationships with customers. Forty-six percent believe a four-day workweek would have a negative effect on sales and revenue, and 55 percent say a shorter workweek would frustrate customers.

“What employees really want and expect is the flexibility to adjust their work schedules to fit the demands of their lives. In today’s new world of work, successful companies will set aside antiquated assumptions about what productivity looks like and listen to employees, so they can offer the flexibility that meets their individual needs,” says Benjamin Granger, Ph.D., head of employee experience advisory services at Qualtrics. “While there is increasing momentum around the idea of working four days a week, employees are willing to acknowledge the associated tradeoffs — like working longer hours or potentially frustrating customers.”

When it comes to recruiting and retaining talent, however, employees are confident that a four-day workweek would be beneficial. Employees say a four-day workweek is the number one thing that would influence them to stay at a company longer — even more than unlimited vacation or paid mental health days. Eighty-one percent say a four-day workweek would make them feel more loyal to their employer, and 82 percent say it would help their company with recruitment. More than a third (37 percent) would even be willing to take a 5 percent pay cut or more in exchange for recurring three-day weekends.

Paid mental health days are another benefit that may increase retention and loyalty. Similar to four-day workweeks, the majority of employees (92 percent) want paid mental health days, which are seen as more than just a gimmick to appease burnt out employees or a ploy for extra vacation days. Ninety-five percent say paid mental health days are a long-term solution to ensuring good mental health among employees.

More key takeaways from the study:

  • 79 percent of U.S. employees say a four-day workweek would improve their mental health; 82 percent say it would make them more productive
  • Only 38 percent say a four-day workweek would encourage employees to slack off, compared to 60 percent who say it wouldn’t
  • 89 percent say paid mental health days would help them recharge and be more productive
  • 87 percent say paid mental health days would reduce burnout and improve mental health