Four-day week improves productivity

Jul 9, 2024

According to independent research by Cambridge and Salford universities, South Cambridgeshire District Council saw notable benefits in Britain's largest public sector trial of a four-day week. The 15-month trial involved around 450 desk staff and refuse collectors. The study revealed:

  • Staff turnover dropped by 39%, saving £371,500 annually, mainly on agency staff costs.
  • Regular household planning applications were processed about a week and a half faster.
  • Major planning application decisions within the correct timescale increased by 15%.
  • The time to process housing benefit and council tax benefit changes decreased.

However, there were minor drawbacks:

  • Rent collection for council housing worsened slightly, attributed to the cost of living crisis.
  • The speed of re-letting empty council houses fell from 28 to 30 days on average.

The trial, adjusted for COVID-19 impacts, showed that productivity improvements occurred in 11 of 24 areas, with little or no change in 11 areas and performance worsening in two areas. The experiment ran from January 2023 to April 2024, with staff maintaining 100% productivity 80% of the time for full pay.

This trial contrasts Greece's recent six-day week policy aimed at boosting productivity amid a shrinking population and skilled worker shortage. The trial results indicated improved physical and mental health, motivation, and commitment among employees, countering the productivity stagnation in the British economy since the pandemic.

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