Employers as well as their staff can benefit significantly from the adoption of a four-day week, according to the authors of a new study based on a pilot project involving 12 Irish firms.
The firms involved, which included a mix of tech services, telecoms and recruitment companies, among others, employed almost 200 people between them and all of the employees surveyed at the end of the six-month pilot said they wished to continue with the arrangement.
Respondents to the study, entitled The Four Day Week: Assessing global trials of reduced work time with no reduction in pay – Evidence from Ireland, cited various benefits including reduced stress, improved family time and significantly better sleep. Women appeared to find the changed working arrangements particularly beneficial, according to the report’s lead author in Ireland, Dr Orla Kelly of UCD.
“Some companies took some time to get to grips with aspects of the implementation in terms of time management, training and so on, but overall they seem quite positive about it in terms of productivity and other factors, with nine committed to maintaining the changes and the other three continuing with it but also continuing to review,” said Dr Kelly.
The opt-in nature of the study meant the firms were likely positively predisposed to the notion, she said, but they generally felt the pilot had gone well.
The study, which started in February and ran for six months, was part of a broader one in which companies in the United States, New Zealand and Australia also participated, with researchers from Boston College and Cambridge University also involved.
Kevin Callinan, general secretary of Fórsa, who, along with the organisation Four Day Week Ireland, participated in the research, said there is “a mismatch between the amount of time we spend working and the time we spend with our families and friends”.
“The four-day week is an example of how a concept that many have questioned can genuinely improve the future for workers,” he said.
Employers who participated in the project seemed equally enthusiastic, with businessman Barry Prost, founder of Rent a Recruiter, hailing the experiment as having been a “hugely positive experience for his firm of 25 employees”.
He said there were various sectors in which it would be more difficult to implement but, he said, “I think if you think of the white-collar professional sector, I just don’t see how it couldn’t apply more widely.”
Sinéad Crowther, chief executive of Soothing Solutions, a manufacturer of various medicinal products including lollipops for children, based in Dundalk, said her company’s experience suggested it could be successfully applied in certain factory settings as well.
“I’m not saying this is doable for everyone,” said Ms Crowther, whose company got involved with the trial just as she and her co-founder were hiring the small number of staff who work on its production line.
“We didn’t have to make changes because we built a process with this in mind.”