South Africa is the latest country to trial the four-day work week, and 92% of companies that participated in the pilot plan to stick with it.
Some 27 companies and 470 employees took part in the six-month, four-day work week trials which ended in August, and was conducted with 4 Day Week Global, an organisation that has previously led pilot programmes in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
The pilot was also conducted across industries, with the majority in professional services and IT, followed by marketing, recruitment, finance and others.
While most pilot programmes give Fridays off, for the South African trial, workers were allowed to choose their preferred day off, and fewer than a quarter chose Fridays.
During the trial workers received full salary, and were obliged to produce the same amount of work within the four days.
Participating organisations said employees remained productive and the trial helped attract and retain talent.
This time last year, headlines were all about the four-day work week trial conducted in Britain, which was billed as the world’s largest pilot so far.
Sixty one private companies and 2,900 workers took part for six months from June 2022, and again 92% reported they would continue with the four-day work week.
Following the trial 60% of employees said that it was easier to balance work and home life, while 73% reported increased satisfaction with their lives overall, and revenue grew between 1.4% and more than 34%, depending on the company.
Claire Daniels, CEO of Trio Media in Leeds, participated in the six-month trial and found it chimed well with the business’s word of the year: productivity.
“For any business owner, productivity = profitability and I was keen to find ways that we could become more profitable without increasing our costs,” she said.
“I had heard about the productivity benefits of a four-day week along with other performance-related benefits, and the more I found out about it the more that it seemed like a no-brainer to give it a go.”
At the time, Daniels’ team had nine members, and in the lead-up to the pilot, she joined webinars and workshops to ensure the business was fully prepared.
Her approach was to keep the business open five days by splitting the team in two; half working Monday to Thursday, the other half working Tuesday to Friday.
“Everyone was buddied up on client accounts to make sure there was continuity for our customers.”
Daniels regrets not having a measurement KPI in place for the pilot, as it’s difficult to compare before and after. However, she is enthusiastic about the business benefits that were clearly gained.
“The business’s financial performance during the trial was phenomenal; we performed 36% better than the previous 6 months and 47% better than the previous year. We had record sales months whilst on the trial and I attribute this to having a happier team,” she says.
Employee well-being and mental health also improved, and staff retention at Trio Media is 100%.
Late last year, civil servants in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) began their campaign for a four-day work week trial for its 21,000 employees, with the backing of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).
If granted, Defra will be the first central government department in the UK to begin such a trial.
Meanwhile, a number of local authorities in the UK have run their own four-day week trials.
From 6 April this year, UK workers will be able to ask for flexible working from day one of employment.
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