Is the 4 day work week the future of work?
You just went out of the office and you receive a call from a friend inviting you to his party later that night but you apologize:
“I wish I could come but I am working tomorrow. Who throws a party on a Thursday night?”
“Oh haven’t you heard the news? I am working a 4 day week at my new company.”
You roll your eyes and say: “are you kidding me?”
Let me answer you here: No, he is not kidding. The 4 day work week is actually legit.
How it all started
Andrew Barnes, CEO of a a trust and estate planning firm called Perpetual Guardian, stumbled into a research revealing that the average British employee is productive for 2.5 hours only per day. That’s when inspiration struck him to start the experiment.
He adds: “If I gave people a day off a week to do all the other stuff that got in the way–all the little problems that you might have outside of work–would you then get better productivity in the office in the four days when people worked?”
Before launching the experiment, he asked his employees to brainstorm ideas on how to boost their productivity and still hit the same KPI during a 4 week work, assuming Wednesday or Friday is a day off.
Barnes was aware that there are ways to increase efficiency if we focus on the little things one doesn’t usually notice because they are just too insignificant.
Jarrod Harr, a professor of human resource management at Auckland University of Technology, surveyed employees before and after the experiment. He found out that the supervisors were able to hit the desired KPIs surprisingly.
Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School, said employees’ motivation and commitment to work increased because they were included in the planning of the experiment, and played a key role in designing how the four-day week would be managed so as not to negatively impact productivity.
Job stress declined from 45% to 38%. Employees’ sense of engagement with their work went up, and their commitment to their employer rose from 68% to 88%. Workers’ sense of work-life balance went from 54% to 78%.
After a successful experiment, Barnes is seriously thinking about changing to the new model permanently but they are faced with a legislative challenge. With the help of Lain Lees-Galloway, New Zealand’s workplace relations minister, it looks like there is a way to bypass this issue.
“I’m really keen to work with any businesses that are looking at how they can be more flexible for their staff and how they can look to improve productivity whilst working alongside their staff and protecting terms and conditions,” Less-Galloway said.
The dark side of the 4 day work week
It’s worth mentioning that similar trials took place in other countries, although they didn’t hit the same success rate. For instance when France mandated a 35-hour workweek in 2000, businesses expressed a sense of discontent. They also reported a raise in hiring costs and lack of competitiveness.
The 4 day work week has its own set of drawbacks:
- 4 day work week means an increase in day hours: While startups are easy to transit to such time-sheet because of the flexibility and the fast paced environment, big corporations may find it challenging since they track employee performance by the hour and not based on performed tasks.
- Working mothers may find difficulties with child care: increasing work hours doesn’t necessarily mean that child care services will put up with that.
- Customer dissatisfaction: the state of Utah recently reverted back to a five-day workweek. It dropped down to four days for state government workers in 2008 and quickly saw a rise in productivity, employee satisfaction and morale in addition to savings on energy costs. However, customers grew frustrated that they didn’t have access to services on Fridays, and in 2011, Utah went back to a five-day week eventually.
The 4 day work is not for everyone
Despite its benefits, the 4 day work is not the cup of tea of all people or organizations. But still you can implement your own version based on your own needs. That being said, taking an extra day off doesn’t have to be the reason you try the experiment.
So answering the big question: Is the 4 day week worth it? Well, it depends on the entity. Increasing your team’s productivity goes way beyond that.
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