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Should Your Company Consider A Four Day Working Week?

Should Your Company Consider A Four Day Working Week?

While a 40-hour working week has been the norm for as long as most today’s workforce can remember, more businesses are now offering a four-day working week with claims that it can boost employee productivity, reduce stress levels, improve perceived work-life balance – and more. So should your New Zealand business consider a four day working week, too? We’ve examined what’s happening around the world, and the impact that this new way of working is really having on businesses.

The constant demands of technology and 24/7 digital communication have created an “always-on” culture of modern life, where work intrudes into our homes and leisure time – making it that much harder for workers to recharge their increasingly rundown batteries, spend time with loved ones, and keep on top of their mental and physical health. 

These long work hours are beginning to translate into the “silent” pandemic of toxic stress and mental health, with studies showing that compared to employees with a four day work week, those who work at least 40 hours are much more likely to have a stroke, develop heart disease, have an injury or illness, experience difficulty sleeping, poorer mental health, and challenges with family and friend relationships. This only serves to negatively impact staff engagement and satisfaction, sick days, productivity, burnout, and retention. 

This is one of the foundations from which a growing number of companies and workplaces suggest the four day working working week is not just the key to happiness, but the answer to creating a more productive workforce

What Are CEO’s Saying About Implementing The Four Day Working Week?

The results are coming in, and employers around the world are proving that their team can not only match, but exceed productive capacity and other success measures in a condensed week:

  • In Berlin, tech-based company Awinthe started off by telling everyone to sign off at lunchtime every Friday to ease into the weekend. The experiment was so successful – sales, employee engagement, and client satisfaction all rose – that a few months later, Awin went a step further, rolling out a four-day week for the entire company with no cuts in salaries or benefits. “We firmly believe that happy, engaged, and well-balanced employees produce much better work,” says Chief Executive Officer Adam Ross. “They find ways to work smarter, and they’re just as productive.”
  • In New Zealand, Andrew Barnes, founder of the investment advisory firm Perpetual Guardian, was curious about his own company’s workflow after he read a startling statistic that employees were productive for only two and a half hours a day, so he decided to try implementing a four-day working week. Employees had the opportunity to take a day off, while still receiving their usual five-day salary. Barnes said “I thought if I offered my staff a day off a week, would they change the way they worked so they could be as productive in four days rather than five?” It didn’t take long to see results – after only one year, the transition was so successful that the company made it a permanent part of their company. “We got a 40% improvement in engagement, stress levels dropped by 15% and more people said they were better able to do their job.”
  • In 2019, Microsoft Japan introduced the concept of a four-day working week while maintaining employees’ full salaries, and the success they saw was unprecedented – within only a few months, they saw a 40% jump in productivity. CEO Takuya Hirano said “There’s no natural law that says we have to work 40 hours a week; I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time; Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot.” 

What Are The Proven Benefits Of A Four Day Working Week?

  • Worker productivity and employee engagement rise: When Microsoft Japan switched to a three-day weekend, the company experienced productivity gains of 40%, and staff engagement scores improved by 40%. The Society for Human Resource Management found that 60% of companies that impelment a four-day workweek experience higher productivity. Working for less hours per day means that workers feel incentivised to eliminate less-productive activities such as spending time on non-urgent emails, scrolling social media, or hosting meetings that drag on far longer than is necessary. 
  • Companies reap substantial financial benefits: UK academics surveyed a number of businesses that had adopted a four-day week with full pay and found that they were saving almost £92 billion each year – about 2% of their total turnover. Not only are employees more productive, but they end up taking fewer sick days, and companies also see savings in reducing electricity usage, office supplies, and office maintenance costs. 
  • It helps to recruit and retain talented workers: Surveys have found that adopting a four-day week is attractive to talented job hunters and makes more workers likely to stay, with results showing that 30% of workers have considered leaving a job because it didn’t offer flexible work options, 74% of workers say work-life balance is their top factor when evaluating a job, and 80% of employees say they would be much more likely to stay with their current employer if they had flexible work options. 74% of surveyed office workers also say that they support a four-day workweek. 
  • Rewarding productivity rather than time makes working more sustainable: For parents looking after young children, those with chronic illness or disabilities, and caregivers of elerly parents, work can come at the expense of time devoted to family care responsibilities. A four-day week can enable many people to take time away from work if needed, without it damaging their careers, and make it easier for women returning to the workforce after having children.
  • Staff physical and mental health improves: 60% of companies that host a four-day work week have found increased levels of employee satisfaction, and stress levels dropped by at least 15%. “Feelings of overwork can take a toll on healthy behaviours like sleep, exercise and eating, as well as emotional and cognitive well-being,” says Carrie Bulger, a psychology professor at Quinnipiac University. Josh Miles, president of Killer Visual Strategies, a Seattle-based communications agency said, “We saw people expressing signs of burnout. We want to make sure we’re taking care of our employees mentally and physically. The four-day week gives people more time to decompress. They come back to work more refreshed.”

Tips For A Smooth Transition

  • Offer it as a trial: For employers unsure where to begin, it can be great to start off by offering a trial. During that time, you can measure employee productivity and engagement and listen to their feedback. It can also be a great way of identifying problems in the business that are acting against getting the best productivity.
  • Have a rotating schedule: Instead of closing your company for three days each week, it might be worth offering every employee the option to choose either a Monday through Thursday work week or a Tuesday through Friday workweek. That way, if a client or customer required assistance on a certain day, they would always receive the support they need and provide your company with much-valued revenue.  
  • Utilise AI and technology to support your transition:  The pandemic has accelerated the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to replace tedious manual tasks, particularly among customer service and client relations. These advancements can also help employees accomplish the same amount of work in less time. AI-powered chatbots or self-service knowledge libraries can provide customers an alternate avenue of support rather than relying on human interaction.
  • There’s no one-size fits all approach: There’s no handbook on running a four-day working week, as each company has unique needs and customer bases. This is a great opportunity to talk to your employees about what would matter to them and work for them, decide what your goals are, and how you will measure success.

Support Your Staff Wellness Even Further By Giving Them Choice And Control Over Their Health Contributions 

The worldwide movement towards a four day working week is designed to support employee wellness and improve their engagement, productivity and retention. Part of this journey of promoting staff wellness also involves listening to their concerns, and giving them greater control of how the money allocated for their health is used. 

This is where an employer aid program that puts money directly into a dedicated health wallet can act as a beneficial and well-accepted alternative, giving employees control and flexibility over how best to care for the health of themselves and their families. Learn about the benefits of employer aid, and how you can easily start employer aid via a health wallet that can only be used on health-related products and services via HealthNow’s international platform here.


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  12. SHRM

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