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Labour’s four-day-week policy: already working well for companies in New Zealand, Scotland, England and Ireland

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, told the Labour conference in September that the party would reduce average full-time hours to 32 a week within a decade “with no loss of pay”. People should “work to live, not live to work”, he said.

Phantom research?

The Times cites research by the Centre for Policy Studies, ‘The most influential think tank among Conservative MPs’, which was not revealed on their website. It was said to allege that reducing the hours of public sector employees, including doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters and police officers, would be costly because the workforce would have to expand.

That is not the experience of 4-day companies in New Zealand, Scotland England and Ireland

The ITV News website covers theory, adding statistics and recording at length the findings of Edinburgh restaurant Aizle, which has enjoyed its best financial year after moving to 4-day working. Its owner says the improvement in staff morale, which has helped to recruit and retain willing workers, has been the biggest positive.

It briefly refers to a New Zealand financial services company initiated the four-day-week and claimed it boosted productivity by 24%. Henley Business School research also mentions Perpetual Guardian, the New Zealand estate management firm, one of the first to go public with a research-backed assessment of its trial, before adopting the policy in November 2018, having found that productivity was unharmed by the shortened working week,

Another company Think Productive in Brighton and Hove switched seven years ago. It changed its five-day week into four extended weekdays and one Friday in four after a three-month trial, but staff are still given the option to work a traditional five-day week: “Most don’t, choosing to lose two commutes and gain the freedom of an extra day to pursue personal and professional interests beyond their primary income”.

Recruitment firm ICE Group this year became the first company in Ireland to adopt a four-day week for all its staff.

Henley Business School research: four-day week pays off for UK business

Henley’s ‘Four better or Four Worse?’ White Paper has gathered opinions from over 250 businesses who currently operate with a four-day working week.

  • Two thirds reported improvements in staff productivity.
  • The move has already saved implementing businesses an estimated £92 billion annually
  • Three quarters of Brits back a four-day working week
  • 67% of Gen Z say it would drive them to pick a place to work.
  • 64% of those businesses who have already adopted a four-day working week have reported improvements in staff productivity.
  • 78% of implementing businesses said staff were happier, 70% less stressed
  • 62% took fewer days off ill..
  • 63% of employers said that providing a four-day working week has helped them to attract and retain talent.
  • 40% of employees said they use the time to upskill or develop professional skills.
  • 25% said they use their fifth day to volunteer.
  • 34% of business leaders surveyed and 46% of those in larger businesses, say making the switch to a four-day working week will be important for future business success.

The study shows that UK workers are keen for this workplace shakeup, with nearly three quarters (72%) agreeing it’s an attractive proposition and would be a firm driver when picking an employer. This is particularly important for Gen Z – with two thirds (67%) saying it would influence their choice of employment.

The research also added that, despite the financial, environmental and wellbeing advantages, 73% of employers cite concerns around taking up the change, with client and customer servicing and the need to be available, noted as the main barrier for 82% of businesses.

The four-day week also demonstrates a positive impact on the environment, as employees estimate they would drive 557.8 million fewer miles per week on average, leading to fewer transport emissions.

Quartz magazine presents new evidence that working less is good for productivity. In August 2019, Microsoft Japan embarked on a four-day week trial. Every Friday it closed the office and gave roughly 2,300 full-time employees a paid holiday.


According to an article in Sora News 24, there was an enormous jump in productivity. Based on sales per employee, workers were almost 40% more productive than they were the same month a year earlier, while staff stress levels were dramatically improved.

Other productivity hacks (shortcuts, tricks or strategies) were encouraged, including limiting meetings to 30 minutes and suggesting that instead of calling meetings, employees could more fully utilize software available for online collaboration.

Cassie Werber commented yesterday: Microsoft Japan’s trial is significant because it’s the biggest yet in terms of staff numbers and the apparent effect on productivity. It’s caught the global imagination, perhaps, because Japan’s work culture is seen as particularly punishing. If a big Japanese tech company can change its ways and achieve startlingly better results, perhaps there’s hope for us all”.