Ready to embrace the four-day working week?

Mar 20, 2019

It’s completely rational to think that more hours at our desks means more work produced, and that means higher productivity levels. But what if we told you that less is more when it comes to getting the most from your team?

Pitch the idea of a four-day working week to most managers and owners, and the response is likely to be a straight up “no way,” maybe with a side of sarcastic laughter. It certainly seems a long way off becoming mainstream (we’ve not got on board…yet). But a New Zealand company that’s trialled the four-day working week has noticed tangible benefits for its people and the business.

The firm in question is financial services company Perpetual Guardian. It moved its 240 staff from a five to four-day working week last November, while keeping pay the same. The result? A 20% rise in productivity, improved staff wellbeing and expected increase in profits – or so a study of the trial revealed.

As the Guardian explains, the trial was monitored by academics from the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology. They found scores given by workers for leadership, stimulation, empowerment and commitment were all higher compared with a 2017 survey.

An earlier trial showed that the greatest score increases were in commitment and empowerment. Stress levels dropped from 45% to 38%, while work-life balance scores jumped to 78% from 54%.

“This is an idea whose time has come,” said Perpetual Guardian founder and chief executive, Andrew Barnes. “We need to get more companies to give it a go. They will be surprised at the improvement in their company, their staff and in their wider community.”

“We’ve been treated like adults and I think as a result everyone is behaving like adults,” said Tammy Barker, a branch manager who was part of the eight-week trial.

Here in the UK, the Wellcome Trust science funding body is thinking about moving its 800-strong head office team to a four-day week.

Perpetual Guardian has received over 350 requests for details about the trial from 28 countries. Most come from companies in the UK, followed by Australia, the US and Germany.

Labour has commissioned a study into the possibilities of a four-day week, though early research has highlighted difficulties in achieving productivity gains in key industries like retail, where being present is a crucial part of the job.

The trial showed that people used the extra day off for some of the same leisure activities they’d usually get involved in at the weekends – like playing golf and watching Netflix. But Jarrod Haar, professor of HR management at Auckland University of Technology, said new activities emerged too – like spending time with parents, studying and cleaning the house to free up more time at the weekend.

Barnes concluded: “Beyond wellbeing, employees reported their teams were stronger and functioned better together, more satisfied with their jobs, more engaged and they felt their work had greater meaning.

“They also reported being more committed to the organisation and less likely to look elsewhere for a job.” If you’re not ready to embrace the four-day working week just yet, don’t worry, there are other ways to boost productivity and creativity in the workplace! Why not get in touch with Kerr to find out how you can design your workspace to offer the very best environment for your team?

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