UK Study Participants Overwhelmingly Prefer to Work Less

Photo credit: Israel Andrade/Unsplash

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They may escape the la paresse reputation of their frenemies in France, but make no mistake: the Brits don’t exactly love to work either.

Case in point: the world’s largest-ever four-day-work week trial conducted in the UK has concluded that the vast majority of trial subjects favored a permanent long weekend. Then again, between tea breaks, dipping out early to meet mates at the pub, and mourning dead monarchs, were Brits even working a full 40 hours to begin with?

Laissez Faire or Lazy Faire?

While employees favoring a short work-week isn’t shocking, the study also showed that companies — as in, company leaders — seemed to like the 100-80-100 tradeoff, too (that’s 100% of the salary, for 80% of the time commitment, while maintaining 100% of the output). Of the 61 British businesses that participated in the six-month study, ranging from healthcare to construction to retail, a full 56 are deciding to continue with the practice.

And it’s easy to see why: revenue effectively remained unchanged on average (actually increasing 1.4%), staff departures fell by 57%, and nearly 3 in 4 workers reported greater satisfaction with their time. It’s far from the only data point showing where work-life may be heading:

  • Following a successful 18-month pilot among its New Zealand employees, Unilever in November expanded its 100-80-100 trial to its employees in Australia. In 2021, the Spanish government began paying companies to trial the four-day workweek.
  • Four Day Week Global, the organization behind the UK study, has found similar results in previous tests across the US and Canada, with more trials now planned for Brazil. Australia, and elsewhere.

The French Dispatch: Believe it or not, the French aren’t just behind on the 4-day trend — they’re some of the world’s leading workaholics. Or, at least, their executives are. A recent survey from health insurer Bupa Global found French business leaders are the world’s top “binge workers.” Then again, they may just be covering for their more relaxed underlings.