The tradition of a five-day work week has become worldwide normality since the early 1900s. However, recent four-day work week trials across different countries have gained massive international attention. Especially under the global pandemic, more people started to rethink the importance of work flexibility and mental wellbeing.
What is a Four-day Work Week?
Four-day work week generally refers to a new working style or an arrangement that allows employees to work only four days out of one week while the original salary and legal paid time off remain the same.
Successful Pioneers Blazing Trails of the Four-day Work Week
Japan Microsoft was one of the pioneers in conducting a four-day work week policy. Since Japan has a long history of overwork and hard-working culture, the announcement of the new policy faced massive doubts from its counterparts at the beginning. However, statistics later suggested that employees’ productivity increased by 40% throughout the trial. Furthermore, 92% of employees from the trial also indicated that they feel happier at work and prefer the shorter week. On top of job productivity and satisfaction, the company reported saving electricity by 23% and paper printing by 59% during the trial, which can be an enormous contribution to protecting the environment and the organisation’s bottom line.
Meanwhile, we also see New Zealand company Perceptual Guardian made four-day work weeks permanent after succeeding in their trial. According to results from the trial, founder and director Andrew Barnes stated that overall job productivity increased by 20%, followed by an increase in employees’ work engagement and enthusiasm. In late March, the founder Barnes mentioned that the trial was helping staff get more time with families, friends, hobbies, and their self-development programs. It was described as a “Total win-win” by the University of Auckland business school and Auckland University of Technology. The results showed improved work-life balance and productivity, reduced work stress, and increased staff and customer engagement.
The Benefits You Can Expect
Stanford University conducted an in-depth study of the relationship between the work hours and productivity and found a clear negative correlation between the two factors. Employees who work excessively long hours are less productive than those who work within the average or normal range.
From 2015 to 2017, trials and studies were carried out in Sweden on shortening the working week. Nurses in care homes worked six hours a day for a five-day work cycle. The experiment results were largely positive, with the nurses taking less sick leave. The report also found that the nurses had better physical and mental health and were more engaged in their work, adding 85% more rehabilitation activities for the patients they cared for.
One correlational study also suggested that reduced work hours significantly decreased employees’ emotional exhaustion. Also, employees showed more resilience to work stress, such as irritation and deadlines.
Challenges with Four-day Work Week
Reduced work hours may imply a compressed workload, which means employees may face the stress of finishing the same task in a shorter time. This is a barrier to four-day work weeks, especially for small to medium-size organisations that face insufficient employees and resources, resulting in difficulty coordinating tasks and satisfying customers’ needs. Thus, it is challenging for these companies to increase available roles and job creation to avoid work intensification.
Also, businesses highly related to customer services may face the challenge of reaching ideal customer satisfaction within shorter work hours. One solution to this challenge can be the application of online chatbots and A.I.-driven websites. In addition, using online chatbots or A.I.-driven websites allows customers to have another support channel when employees are on their Friday break.
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The idea of completely transforming your business into a four-day work week can be challenging. However, investing in your employees’ mental wellbeing and job performance can receive a significant return on revenue, business reputation, and a more energetic, satisfied team. So take a step forward and try a trial four-day work week out. Your people are your power.
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