Henley Business School research on how the pandemic has changed uptake of the four-day working week has reached around 82.5 million people through a hugely successful media campaign, establishing Reading as the go-to place for media commentary on flexible working.

Insightful research on how the pandemic affected UK businesses’ uptake of the four-day working week has made Henley Business School the first port of call for journalists seeking expert comment on flexible working.

Dr Rita Fontinha and Professor James T. Walker surveyed 2,000 employees and 500 business leaders in 2019 and 2021 and their in-depth report showed that the pandemic saw a 15% rise in businesses bringing in a four-day work week. The research also showed that the combined savings to UK businesses adopting a four-day work week was almost £104 billion in 2021, or 2.2% of total annual turnover, up from £92 billion before the pandemic.

Fontinha and Walker’s findings have exploded across the global stage, reaching an estimated 82.5 million people across 12 countries through 146 pieces of coverage, including in The Times, The i and BBC online. The research has also featured in high profile business publications on the topic by Forbes, MIT Sloan Management and Microsoft.

Commentary has now turned to action on a national scale: Fontinha is coordinating a Portuguese national trial of the four-day week. This partnership – between the Portuguese government, research institutes and the non-profit 4 Day Week Global – looks set to keep the research in the media spotlight in Portugal and beyond.

“Dr Rita Fontinha and Professor James T. Walker have conducted the first survey on the attitudes of managers and workers towards the four-day week in the UK. I was very impressed with the quality of their research, so when I was invited by the Portuguese government to coordinate their four-day week trial, I did not hesitate to reach out and ultimately invite Dr Rita Fontinha to co-coordinate the project.” — Dr Pedro Gomes, Reader in Economics at Birkbeck, University of London, and Coordinator of the Portuguese Pilot of the Four Day Week

Judges' comment

“Strategic use of the media led to significant reach that has enhanced public understanding of the value and uptake of the four-day week with promising impact evidenced by the Portuguese trial.”

Project name: The four-day week: The pandemic and the evolution of flexible working

Team: Rita Fontinha and James Walker

Partners (on the Portuguese pilot)

  • Four Day Week Global
  • Birkbeck, University of London
  • Portuguese Institute for Work and Employment


  • Henley Business School
  • Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, XXIII Portuguese Government