A TRIAL which saw a family business cut its working hours has found staff felt less stressed and had more energy as a result.

Century Office in Brunel Way, Colchester, took part in the experiment in collaboration with Essex University.

It saw the office furniture supplier shortening the working day down to six and a half hours - an hour and a half less a day than usual.

The study looked at wellbeing, as well as productivity and service levels.

During the trial between April and June some staff opted to work reduced hours over five days, whilst others opted to just work four full days.

Researchers at the university’s School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences evaluated the trial’s findings.

Staff reported feelings of stress decreased by 13 per cent, with 11 per cent of staff saying they could noticeably feel a positive difference in their energy levels and 10 per cent feeling more in control of their work responsibilities.

However, the biggest impact on employees’ wellbeing was on sleep patterns - with 72 per cent of staff reporting sleeping between 7-8 hours a night during the trial, which was more than they usually did.

It also found 54 per cent of staff were able to take advantage of a shorter commute as a result of avoiding the traditional rush-hour.

Overall, employees reported a greater work-life balance.

However, the trial was not without its challenges.

Although the company did not report losing productivity, the reduced hours and different staff working patterns meant there were some continuity issues with customer enquiries.

Directors also saw an increase in their workloads as they had to cover for others who had chosen to work shorter days.

As a result of the trial and the feedback from the employees, Century Office made changes to its opening hours to enable staff to make their morning and evening commute outside of normal rush-hour periods.

Sarah Bays, director of Century Office, said: “We need to undertake some further evaluation and consultation before we can decide whether to adopt a permanent reduction in working hours, but having implemented the changes to our opening hours has already made a huge difference to the entire team as we are all now travelling in and out of the business park outside of the very busy peak times.

"For some of our team this has made as much as an hour difference to the time they arrive home each evening, and at no cost or detrimental impact to the business whatsoever.

"The trial has been a very valuable experiment and we are grateful to our team and the University for their input.”

Dr Valerie Gladwell, senior lecturer, added: “This was a very thought-provoking small trial and would be really interesting to upscale it to see how it works in different types of businesses.

"We are also looking forward to see how Century Office take this forward.”