Why it’s time for a four-day working week for all

Posted by
Susan Devaney
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Is it time to scrap working on a Friday? An experiment carried out by one company in New Zealand may prove it’s a worthy call. 

There’s a reason people chase that ‘Friday feeling’: it’s the best day of the working week. Not for getting a lot of work done, but for high spirits, general office cheer and a trip to the pub as soon as the clock strikes 5pm. But what would happen if we scrapped it?

Enter: the four-day working week and happier employees all round.

Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based company managing wills and estate planning, achieved just that. The experiment involved employees working four eight-hour days a week while being paid for five. The change proved to be so successful that it hopes to make it permanent.

The landmark-trial found that the change actually boosted productivity among its 240 employees as they spent more time with their families, exercising, cooking, and working in their gardens. Sounds like a dream, right?

The experiment, which ran for two months in March and April this year, involved two researchers studying the effects of a reduced workweek from 40 to 32 hours on staff. 

One in 10 Britons would take a pay cut to be able to work fewer hours

Jarrod Haar, a human resources professor at Auckland University of Technology, said employees reported a 24% improvement in their work-life balance. Better yet, they came back to work feeling a lot more energised and ready for the week ahead.

“Supervisors said staff were more creative, their attendance was better, they were on time, and they didn’t leave early or take long breaks,” Haar said. “Their actual job performance didn’t change when doing it over four days instead of five.”

More interestingly, the firm believes productivity also grew by 20%, thanks to staff working more efficiently when they were in the office.

And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Working five days for a two-day weekend, doesn’t seem like a balance at all. Maybe that’s why one in 10 Britons would take a pay cut to be able to work fewer hours.

But New Zealand is not the first to test out this theory, other countries have trialled workers working shorter days to increase overall productivity.

In Sweden, a trial was carried out in Gothenburg where a six-hour day was mandated, with officials finding that employees completed the same amount of work or more. In comparison, when France tested a 35-hour workweek in 2000, businesses found a reduced level of competitiveness between employees and subsequent increased hiring costs. 

New Zealand are not the first to test out this theory, other countries have trialled workers working shorter days to increase overall productivity

And employees also put forward ways to increase productivity through technology with success. In a nutshell, they switched general manual tasks for automated systems.

“Employees designed a number of innovations and initiatives to work in a more productive and efficient manner, from automating manual processes to reducing or eliminating non-work-related internet usage,” said Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School.

Staff stress levels decreased by seven percentage points across the board as a result of the trial, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by five percentage points.

It certainly sounds like a model that can be emulated by other businesses – no matter which country or continent. And who wouldn’t be up for capturing the ‘Friday feeling’ all day, every day? Sign us up. 

Images: Unsplash / Getty