A four-day working week could become the new normal, after a "major breakthrough" trial has found that it leaves employees happier and makes businesses richer.
The world’s largest trial on the concept, which saw 61 UK companies cut down their staff's working hours by 20%, has resulted in employees taking 65% fewer sick days and saw 57% fewer staff resignations.
The way the study worked was that companies decided to either allow their employees to have a three-day weekend or they staggered the days off among their employees throughout the week.
Nearly three-quarters (71%) of employees participating in the University of Cambridge-led trial felt they were less burnt out, while 39% said they were less stressed compared to how they felt at the start of the six-month trial when they were working full-time.
The trial also saw company revenue increase by 1.4% on average, and 92% of companies who participated in the pilot programme said they plan to keep the four-day working week.
Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said the trial is a “major breakthrough moment” for the campaign.
"Across a wide variety of different sectors of the economy, these incredible results show that the four-day week with no loss of pay really works,” he said.
“Surely the time has now come to begin rolling it out across the country.”
Most employees in the programme, which saw them get an extra day off per week, said they spent the time doing “life admin” such as shopping and chores, which allowed them to completely relax on Saturdays and Sundays.
One employee even said that the four-day working week led their “Sunday scaries” – the dread people feel before starting work again on Monday – to disappear.
Other participants said the extra day off allowed them to do more of what they loved. Some even used the time to get more professional qualifications, and parents said they saved on childcare costs.
“Before the trial, many questioned whether we would see an increase in productivity to offset the reduction in working time – but this is exactly what we found,” said University of Cambridge professor Brendan Burchell.
“Many employees were very keen to find efficiency gains themselves. Long meetings with too many people were cut short or ditched completely.
“Workers were much less inclined to kill time, and actively sought out technologies that improved their productivity," added Burchell.
“It has been uplifting for me personally, just talking to so many upbeat people over the last six months. A four-day week means a better working life and family life for so many people.”
In total, there were 2,900 employees across the UK who took part in the scheme, who were part of companies that ranged from online retailers, to IT, marketing and even local fish and chip shops.
Employees taking part in the study added that their levels of anxiety and fatigue decreased while their mental and physical health improved. They added that they found it easier to balance work with family and social commitments, and said that their company culture felt more positive and they felt more valued by their employers.
One CEO of a consultancy company that took part in the trial said it would be “bizarre” to go back to just two days off per week.
They added: “When you realise that day has allowed you to be relaxed and rested, and ready to absolutely go for it on those other four days, you start to realise that to go back to working on a Friday would feel really wrong – stupid actually.”
When the trial was launched in June last year, companies said they would give their workers 100% of the pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for 100% productivity.
At the time, consultant psychologist Dr Elena Touroni told Yahoo that working fewer hours per week could greatly improve mental health.
“Our relationships are better because we have more time to spend with our friends, families and loved ones," she said. "We also have more time and energy to follow our interests and to nurture our creativity, which gives our lives meaning and purpose."
Additional reporting by SWNS.
Watch: Is it time for the four-day working week?