Four-day week made staff more stressed, says tech firm

Four-day week made staff more stressed, says tech firm

A technology company has cancelled its trial of a four-day working week after finding the scheme increased staff stress, made them unhappy and did not improve productivity.

Krystal, an internet services firm in London, introduced a four-day operation in June, saying it would run the experiment for six months. The aim was to improve staff wellbeing and therefore provide a better service to clients. It cited research saying a four-day week raised productivity by 40 per cent.

However, Simon Blackler, the company’s founder, has admitted it had failed. He said staff had become more stressed as they tried to complete the same amount of work in less time, and that customer service via its helpline had worsened.

In an email to customers Blackler wrote: “While team members did have the benefit of an extra day off, we discovered that the extra recovery time did not increase output by the 20 per cent necessary to replace that which had been lost.”

He added: “While the team fought admirably to keep on top of work and turned around responses as quickly as possible it came at a cost — work time was now much more stressful than before. The opposite of what we were trying to accomplish. During the trial you may have experienced support that was slower than you’re used to or not the usual quality. If that’s the case then I’d like to apologise and can reassure you that things will be returning to normal next week.”

The return to a five-day week starts today, he said, adding: “While the outcome isn’t what we expected, I’m glad that we tried. Our heart was in the right place and the exercise hasn’t been a total failure. After listening to feedback we’ve made a major adjustment I hope will improve staff work-life balance with fewer trade-offs — staff can now finish at 5pm instead of 6pm and have more evening time.”

Earlier this year, the results of the world’s biggest four-day working week pilot were revealed and academics and companies involved in the project hailed it as a “resounding success”.

The study by the University of Cambridge and the campaign group, 4 Day Week Global, reported that switching to a four-day week increased revenue while also improving staff happiness and reducing burnout. However, Liz Watts, the chief executive of South Cambridgeshire district council, which was involved in the study, is said to have edited a report on the scheme to make it more positive.

She was accused of a “cover-up” after she asked for the removal of a quote by a manager, who said that at the beginning of the trial they were doing unfinished work on their day off and it had a negative impact on their wellbeing.

Cambridge academics also faced questions about the independence of their glowing assessment of the scheme after it emerged that they allowed the council to edit their report.