Could a Four Day Working Week Be The Way Forward to Improve Productivity?

It can be miserable coming back into the office on a Monday – especially during a heatwave like this.

However, some lucky workers get the chance to enjoy an extra day off every single week, while still being paid for five days work.

Perpetual Guardian, a company which manages trusts, wills and estate planning, trialled a four-day working week over March and April, working four, eight-hour days whilst paying staff for five, according to the Guardian.

The New Zealand firm saw staff stress levels decreased by 7 percentage points as a result of the trial, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly. Overall life satisfaction increased by 5 percentage points

Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School, explained that employees played a key role in designing how the four-day week would be managed so as not to negatively impact productivity

“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,” she said.

Cary Cooper, 50th Anniversary Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at the Manchester Business School, has previously stated that working longer hours does not correlate with stronger productivity.

“We have the longest working hours in Europe,” he said. “And the second longest in the developed world.”

“But our productivity is amongst the lowest. We also know that longer hours mean worse health.”

So this means a shorter working week may result in fewer sick days.

Graham Allcott is the CEO of Think Productive, a firm that has been offering a four-day week for several years. “Fridays typically become time set aside for household chores or life maintenance, leaving two full days of uninterrupted rest”

“It also guards against overwork and long workweeks that leave the weekend confined to nothing more than recovery and recuperation ready for the next overly long workweek. It puts the ‘balance’ and the ‘life’ back into the over-used phrase ‘work-life balance’.”

This is not the first time we have heard of similar trails. In 2017, the Swedish government presented its results, following a two year study, whereby a select group of care home workers had been working 30 hours each week for the last two years

The results of that study, were about what you’d expect — people claimed they were happier, less stressed, and enjoyed the work more.

The negatives to this trail, was the cost factor, as additional staff were required to cover the shifts resulting in increased payroll costs along with the added burden of planning and resourcing.

Sub-40-hour workweeks are common in other parts of Europe — in France, working weeks are 35 hours — but that’s hardly the norm worldwide. In the US, the average full-time worker commits 47 hours to their job. In certain Asian countries, such as South Korea and Japan, the numbers are even higher.

Could the same thing work at your firm? It may be difficult to convince bosses that the same amount of work can be done in a shorter amount of time – but some leading academics thinks it is possible.