In 1930, renowned economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that a 15-hour working week would be the norm by 2030. In many countries, however, the working week has become longer and longer, as the ‘work more’ concept so ingrained in the US and Japan has prevailed the world over. Though Keynes may have been extreme in his prediction, however, there are signs that the tide has turned.

Forced by the pandemic to rethink working arrangements, companies large and small have reinvented how employees collaborate, communicate and contribute to strategic goals. Yet moving to a world of Zoom meetings and remote working has had a huge impact on how employees view their work/life balance. Many now feel that time at home is more valuable than they previously thought.

That experience has accelerated a trend that was already gathering pace: the implementation of the four-day working week. Initially the preserve of smaller businesses, big corporations are now considering the concept. Some, in fact, are putting it into practice. In June 2020, Japan’s Toshiba began trialing a four-day week, and the following month UK supermarket Morrisons sought to implement a working week of four nine-hour days instead of five eight-hour days for head office staff. Unilever New Zealand also trialed a shorter week, as did UK research organization Autonomy. Many more have made similar moves – but beyond these individual examples, there is a growing number of broader initiatives.

Laurent de la Clergerie, CEO, Groupe LDLC

In June last year, a number of British companies teamed up to examine the impact of reduced working hours on productivity, employee wellbeing, the environment and gender equality. The programme was run by Oxford and Cambridge universities, Boston College, as well as a number of advocacy groups. Overall the project saw 70 companies – with a total workforce of around 3,300 people – sign up to implement shorter working hours.

That’s shadowed by even more ambitious, nationwide schemes. In February 2022, Belgian employees secured the right to decide whether to work four or five days a week, albeit while delivering the same output. In a country known for its rigid labour market, this is a huge step towards a more flexible approach to how employees balance their personal and working lives.

“We act as a vehicle for social proof of concept and positive outcomes from individual companies,” says Joe O’Connor, chief executive at 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit. “We have now worked with hundreds of different companies around the world to focus on productivity using the model of 100% pay, 80% time for commitment to produce 100% of output.”

“We are looking at the transformative benefit of a day off,” O’Connor continues. “We have seen many case studies where wellbeing is up, productivity is up and results are up. Now, we want to show that it can be replicated on a bigger scale. Much like remote working, the pandemic made this permissible. We had the tools already but the pandemic opened up the idea that you could run a global company from your kitchen table, and made it socially permissible.”

“We have now worked with hundreds of different companies around the world to focus on productivity using the model of 100% pay, 80% time for commitment to produce 100% of output.”

Joe O’Connor


The percentage of businesses that report finding it easier to attract and retain talent with a four-day week.


The percentage of employees working four-day weeks that are happier and less stressed.

4 Day Week Global

The so-called ‘100:80:100’ model is now the basis for similar projects that are set to start in the US, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, among other places. Those backing such initiatives can point to tangible proof that the concept is viable – not least from the experience of French company LDLC.

Proven in practice

French e-commerce company Groupe LDLC is possibly the most impressive example of the four-day week in Europe. The company, run by CEO Laurent de la Clergerie, specialises in the sale of computer components and high-tech products such as digital cameras, game consoles and home automation installations.

Joe O’Connor, CEO at 4 Day Week Global

Since introducing the four-day week in early 2021, the company has seen its annual turnover increase by 40% without hiring any additional staff, even as absenteeism and sick leave fell dramatically, and employee wellbeing increased significantly. “For three or four years I was thinking about how to have better wellbeing in the company for everyone,” de la Clergerie explains. “One day in late 2019 I read an article about a company trialing the four-day week in Japan, so I thought, ‘why not?’.

“Around 80% of our people were happy about the idea of trialing it, though 20% were frightened,” he continues, adding that many managers were afraid work ethics would slip and planning would become impossible. “In fact,” de la Clergerie stresses, “people work better in four days than they used to work in five days.”

In 2019, LDLC’s turnover was around €500m and it employed 1,060 people. Since the four-day week was implemented, it has maintained a comparable workforce – it now has 1,030 employees – even as its annual turnover has risen to €700m.

So, what’s the secret behind this success? The boss condenses his argument into two words: rest and recuperation. “People are less stressed and less tired at the end of the week, so they work better,” says de la Clergerie. “One place I didn’t imagine this kind of improvement was logistics, but we still fulfil all of our orders. Workers come in on Monday with more energy and they still have more energy at the end of week, so they can do the same work that they used to do in five days.”

Indeed, the LDLC model is not as simple as giving everyone a three-day weekend. Everyone has the weekend off, except those in retail who are needed on Saturdays. But everyone has two consecutive days off in a row every week, and the third day can be any day during the week. Most people ask for Friday or Wednesday, so each week their preferences are rotated between employees.

“This model changes everything,” de la Clergerie emphasises. “One bonus is that we are one of the first companies to do this, but that is not the only reason it works. We really change people’s lives. I have never asked anything from the employees. I never asked to have the same work in four days as in five, but I offered the same salary and said I would recruit if we needed more people to do the same work – but I didn’t need to.”

Though de la Clergerie did not stipulate the same output from employees, it is a key underlying principle of the 100:80:100 model, and he must have expected that people would work to maintain their productivity.

“No one should see the difference from people working only four days,” he remarks. “Of course, it will take time for the concept to spread throughout industry. We have to change people’s minds, and many people see it as destroying the value of labour, but I disagree. People can work better in fewer days, so I see it as us putting greater value on the people who provide labour.”

Going viral

The idea of the four-day week flourished during the pandemic, when companies were forced to dismantle and rebuild their working practices. Now, the concept is proving contagious. It does, however, present some challenges, even as the opportunities are obvious.

Based in Paris, Groupe LDLC is one of a number of companies experimenting with a shorter working week.

“For me, the only negative is due to the fact that the four-day week is not general,” says de la Clergerie. “Some people won’t come to this company because they feel their manager will never leave. Some employees leave because they see limited chances for career evolution, so they need to go elsewhere to progress.”

“Nevertheless, other companies cannot take our staff as easily, even if they offer a higher salary,” he adds. “Now, 1% of our employees say we should go back to a five-day week, while 97% want to keep the four-day week, and 2% say they don’t care either way.”

A four-day week has led Groupe LDLC to enjoy higher productivity and less burnout among its employees.

According to O’Connor, the recruitment and retention argument for a shorter working week is “a slam dunk”, as the transformative benefits for individuals are so extreme in terms of wellbeing that staff seem to simply never want to leave. Nevertheless, there are grey areas to explore in finding the right balance. “The variable is productivity,” he says. “It depends on the process and culture. We would not say that if a company reduces work time by 20% but does nothing else, the results will be good. It is all about partnership between leaders and employees, and it involves changes to working practices, better use of technology, and identifying inefficiencies.”

“You can’t just keep doing what is being done already,” O’Connor adds. “There is a process of ensuring people see they have to earn this benefit. It is about leadership being clear in communicating targets and objectives. That said, the proportion of companies that run trials and abandon them is very low, but you have to be clear about what is required for it to be sustainable for the business.”


The percentage rise in productivity per employee following a four-day week trial in Japan by Microsoft.


“One place I didn’t imagine this kind of improvement was logistics, but we still fulfil all of our orders. Workers come in on Monday with more energy and they still have more energy at the end of week, so they can do the same work that they used to do in five days.”

Laurent de la Clergerie

An effective four-day week will no doubt butt up against culture barriers, notably in the US. O’Connor is based in New York – which he calls “the capital of overwork” – so he is taking the bull by the horns. But he is confident that if employees are allowed to figure out the details of how they do their own job within the parameters of a shorter working week, and companies can build an empowered culture, then the idea will soon gain traction. In short, Keynes’ forecast may have been dramatic, but it seems his vision of the future was prescient after all.