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Three-day weekends ahead? South Africa’s four-day work week trial a resounding, yet unexpected, success

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By: Xolile Mtembu - IOL

The results for the South African trial of the four-day work week model are out and they show a resounding success among companies who participated.

Despite early scepticism, the four-day week trial was a first conducted in a developing nation – and the first in Africa.

It has demonstrated significant benefits for both employees and employers.

The six-month study that began in March 2023 has been completed by 26 companies. 4 Day Week Global organised it in collaboration with 4 Day Week South Africa NPC and academics from Boston College and Stellenbosch Business School.

The pilot’s study findings, revealed on Thursday, showed that businesses scored their experience an eight out of 10, with 92% expecting to continue or contemplating the four-day week.

“Employees value their time off so much that 51% say they would need a 21 to 50% pay increase to revert to a five-day week at their next job. Moreover, 13% report that no amount of money would induce them to return to the five-day formula,” reported 4 Day Week SA.

Here are the key findings:

On a scale of zero to 10, from very negative to very positive:

The trial received an eight grade from corporations.

Productivity received a score of 7.5 (as judged by business executives).

The impact on corporate performance received a score of 7.1.

The overall impact on the firms was 7.7.

The impact on recruiting and the potential to attract fresh talent received a 7.9 rating.

During the trial, the companies sales increased by an average of 10.5%.

When compared to the same period last year, resignation rates fell by 11%.

The rate of absenteeism fell by 9%.

Majority of businesses (92%) are either continuing or contemplating the four-day work week.

The premise of those pushing for such a work structure is the increase in productivity by employees and the workers’ improved mental wellness.

Here were the employee outcomes in the trial:

Almost half (49%) of participants reported an increase in work ability, and 58% reported an increase in creativity.

Around 13% of respondents stated that no amount of money could induce them to return to a five-day schedule, while more than half (51%) would require a pay increase of between 21 to 50% to return to a five-day schedule at their next job.

About 85% of employees want to keep the four-day work week.

The effect on employee health:

Around 57% of those who took part reported a decrease in burnout.

About 36% of those who took part reported a reduction in fatigue or weariness.

Around 35% of individuals increased their time spent exercising.

One-third of individuals said they had less sleep issues.

Effect on wellbeing:

One-third of participants reported a reduction in job stress.

About 47% of participants reported an improvement in work-life balance.

Around 59% of participants reported higher satisfaction with time management.

About 35% of participants reported an improvement in their mental health wellbeing.

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