Have you ever dreamt of finding more time to spend on personal endeavours without altering your career? After all, time is the most valuable asset you have. Once it’s gone, you can never get it back. And yet time is what we battle against on both personal and professional fronts. Finding enough time to fit everything into a standard 24 hours is a universal goal. Productivity hacks still focus on teaching us how to achieve more in less time, but there’s a new movement taking off. The four-day work week is rapidly gaining popularity.
Unpacking the four-day work week.
The four-day work week isn’t anything new. In fact, many companies have tested many versions from a compressed full-time week to a reduced 32-hour per week. No matter which approach is involved, it yields a three-day weekend. Globally companies are testing their own versions with life-changing results. Iceland tested reduced work weeks, Spain is trialling them in the government and Japan is also testing a shorter work week. Iceland tried a shorter work week with overwhelming success. In New Zealand at Perpetual Guardian, 240 staff also tested a four-day work week back in 2018. Staff were expected to work 30 hours instead of 37.5 with the same pay yet deliver the same outputs. CEO Andrew Barnes shared, “Our profitability has gone up. Our revenue has gone up. Our staff turnover has dropped.”
Pandemic highlighted work redesigns.
It’s no surprise the pandemic has inspired rapid changes to how we work. And it also sparked possibilities around achieving better work-life balance. Remote teams were forced to learn to function well quickly, and agile work cultures were ignited. “If anyone had said two years ago you could run a multinational from your kitchen table and the rest of your staff was working from home, we would have thought that was nuts,” says Andrew. But that is the situation for many people today and Andrew continues to pioneer the change in his latest book The Four-Day Week. He’s even got a Ted Talk.
Working less reduces burnout.
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but perhaps it should be updated to working less. Life can be stressful and the pandemic has only increased those feelings. According to a recent report from Indeed 52% of workers feel burned out, which is 9% higher than pre-pandemic. Burnout creates negative personal feelings and reduced productivity, employee engagement, and satisfaction. It also leads to more absences at work. In the UK, 25% of all workplace absences are due to work stress. Companies implementing a four-day work week are seeing happier staff (78%), less stress (70%), and fewer days taken off (62%).
Productivity gains rise with fewer hours.
Workaholics are no longer idolised as a symbol of honour. In fact according to Stanford, overworked employees are actually less productive than employees working an average work week. The Perpetual Guardian employees maintained the same productivity levels even while shaving off 20% of their standard work week. And let’s face it. Humans are not lemons, so it’s not by squeezing them harder that you’ll get the best out of them. Some companies even found a lift in productivity like Microsoft Japan who saw a record 40% more productivity. In fact, some of the world’s most productive countries like Norway, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands work an average of 27 hours per week.
Intentional shortcuts to working shorter.
Rather than relying on hope to enable greater productivity within a shorter timeframe, companies pioneering smaller work weeks used a strategic approach. Finding more hours for productivity was essential to maintaining existing levels or even achieving more. Globally companies embraced a few key tactics: tightening meeting times and encouraging focused working without distractions. And of course, using technology tools mindfully was another major driver that minimised electronic interruptions to work flow. Many chose to embrace responsive periods where they returned calls, emails, and notifications. Perpetual Guardian staff voluntarily stashed their phones in lockers during the day, used do not disturb signals, and soundproofed meeting spaces.
Better work-life balance creates happiness.
According to spaceman Richard Branson, the future of work is actually a three-day work week. As a long-standing advocate of fun, he believes in the importance of relaxing, recharging, and reconnecting with the people in your life. Prioritising family, hobbies, friends, and community comes down to setting healthy boundaries and aligning priorities. And this in turn, elevates your quality of life which boosts happiness and impacts your work life. According to positive psychologist Shawn Achor, your brain is 31% more productive when happy. Happy people have more intelligence, creativity, and energy, which in turn creates better work outcomes. It’s time to reverse the traditional formula knowing that happiness does not lie on the other side of success, but happiness comes before success.
Equal productivity means equal pay.
With goals of achieving similar productivity levels over less hours, there was no need to consider salary reductions. All companies trialing the four-day work week left pay untouched in their pursuit of making life less about work. When employees are given a good reason to work harder, it turns out they do. With more time to manage life administration outside of work, Andrew found that staff spent 35% less time on nonwork websites with their shorter work weeks. If the old adage is true that our tasks expand to take all of the time we allow, the converse must be true.
A smaller carbon footprint.
An unexpected benefit of spending fewer days at work is an ecological boost. Spending less time commuting means 20% fewer cars on the road, which reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Having fewer people in the office also lowers power usage and enables companies to reduce the size and footprint of office spaces. Transportation and electricity production are two of the leading GHG producers contributing significantly to climate change. Flexible arrangements and shorter work weeks are not only positive for employees and companies alike, but they create a sustainable future.
When you find a great staff member, the objective is to keep them around for a long-time. Aside from avoiding burnout and increasing staff quality of life and happiness, boosting employee engagement is the key to retaining the best talent. In fact, 63% of companies find it easier to attract and retain talent with a four-day work week. If building your dream team with the world’s best talent is one of your objectives, the four-day work week can be the ace up your sleeve.
Content marketing specialist
Content marketing specialist that tells stories that matters. She considers business is about building trust and long-lasting relationships. She gets jumpy if she doesn't get at least 3 weekly hours of sport, running, yoga, kitesurfing, - you name it!