Let’s get through some of the details; what actually is the 4 day work week, and how does it work?
The 4 day work week is the principle of giving your employees an extra day off each week. However, employees are not expected to work longer hours or make up the extra day. You would be forgiven for thinking – how on earth are we going to get enough work done while reducing everyone’s hours? It’s based on studies that show that we are only productive between 2 – 2.5 hours each day. Between the multiple coffee trips, classic ‘watercooler’ chats, and all those day-to-day things we all manage, large portions of our day are sucked up and our output is surprisingly low.
As a result, 4 Day Work Week founder, Andrew Barnes, attempted something no business leader had done before. He asked his staff at Perpetual Guardian (a New Zealand Company) to design a 4 day working week that would allow them to keep their existing productivity requirements. If your staff are only productive for 2.5 hours of each day, they only need an extra 37.5 minutes of productivity, bringing the grand total to 3 hours and 7 minutes of productivity needed to match their previous work schedule.
The outcomes of the 4 day work week were hard to believe. His staff were happier & healthier, more engaged in their personal lives, which in turn allowed them to be more productive and focused in the office.
Fundamentally, there are two aspects to the 4 day working week that makes it so surprisingly effective. The impacts on the internal working environment, and the impact on non-work or external environment for each employee.
Internal Working Environment Benefits:
- One key way that the 4 day work week improved productivity was the innovations and initiatives created in response. In order to make their work day more efficient and productive, employees were given voice and empowerment. What is taking up a lot of time? Can we automate this? Is this meeting necessary? Many companies have never had these discussions, and therefore never reap the benefits.
- Increased levels of focus and presence at work. The extra day off gave employees a larger ‘head down’ and ‘just do it’ approach to their work. The extra day off means employees could sustain a more intensive work pattern.
- Many teams in the research experienced greater sharing of information, as well as increased delegation of tasks. Some managers even experienced an increase in appreciation and trust for the ability and reliability of their team members.
- “A resounding theme across all focus groups was that employees have a shared commitment to the purpose of the [4 day work week] from a business perspective. That is, there is deep and broad agreement that reduced working hours can only be viable if employees meet, and where possible exceed, the agreed productivity measures. Many employees see the reduced working hours as ‘a gift’ and ‘a privilege not a right’, and feel a deep sense of goodwill and reciprocity towards the organisation, which manifests in an openness to ‘go the extra mile’ and think about ‘what I can do to give back’. Many employees reported a willingness to be available for work purposes on their day off.”
External Working Environment Benefits:
- A consistent theme across all groups was they had more time to accomplish tasks in their personal lives that are often not doable during their standard work week. Whether it’s catching up on the washing, doing some work in the garden, or finally getting the elusive plumber around. These tasks led to increased feelings of accomplishment that spilled over into their work days, allowing them to come to work more focused and motivated.
- By completing these tasks on their days off, it frees up weekends to be spent with family and friends. This lead to large increases in happiness and feeling ‘less psychologically rushed’. Your employees have children, parents, friends who need their time and attention. These people will always be more important than their work. Allowing them to spend more time with their loved ones proves to be highly beneficial. Some employees even reported significant improvements in their spousal relationships and home environments. It’s a no brainer that having a healthy home environment will lead to greater focus and productivity at work.
- Many employees, including managers, commented on the enjoyment of having more time to restore and reconnect. Whether it was simply having some time to yourself, or the ability to try new (& old) hobbies and activities, the additional time off restored energy levels for the remainder of the week.
- A smaller group relayed the benefits of having more time to learn and contribute. This included both formal and informal study and professional development. Ultimately this self learning/self up skilling is only beneficial to you as an employer.
One of the major takeaways from the research was that the massive benefits to the employee OUTSIDE of work, directly led to major improvements INSIDE of work. As a result, employees improved mental health led to greater motivation, greater productivity, and greater goodwill towards their employer. Combine all these factors together and the 4 day work week seems like it could be the future of how we work.
The 4 day work week certainly creates some stresses around scheduling, and seems to suit particular types of businesses more than others. However, until you have tried it, can you be confident that it won’t work? Let us know if you have tried it, or if you are planning to! We would love to hear your experiences with this new and exciting philosophy.
You can check out all the information and research below!