Four the people: What are the benefits of the four-day working week?
It’s the topic on everyone’s lips. Even Finland’s new forward-thinking Prime Minister is giving it a crack. Yes, that’s right, it’s the four-day working week, and it’s so hot right now.
Is this initiative really something that will increase productivity? Or is it just wishful thinking? Well, feast your hungry eyes on this because we’ve laid it all out on the table. The positives and the… not so positives. Let’s begin with the four positives, yeah? Everyone likes to start on a high note.
Productivity and performance prevail
It appears that the various organisations that have taken the four-day working week for a test run have been experiencing some pretty hefty performance-based benefits. Some of which are:
- Lower levels of stress amongst the workforce
- Less absenteeism and presenteeism
- 20 – 40% boost in productivity
The trials have also been linked to a surge in creativity, innovation, teamwork and collaboration, which often translates into an increase in performance and productivity too. With less hours in the week to deliver on their responsibilities, employees are required to work together, awakening new and exciting ways to solve problems and be more efficient with time. Essentially, it promotes a growth mindset on both an individual and organisational level, which will flow into many areas of the operating rhythm.
A perfect example of an organisation reaping the rewards of the initiative is Microsoft Japan, who took it for a test drive with 2,300 staff members. Not only did they find that meetings became more efficient, but people were generally happier and taking less time off. Here’s the real kicker though. Even though these employees had 20% less time to complete tasks, productivity didn’t suffer at all. In fact, it actually increased by 40%. Say whaaat?
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand based financial services company also trialled the shortened week with 240 of their staff. Aside from an increase in productivity, their employee survey revealed that leadership, stimulation, empowerment and commitment had higher ratings compared to the year prior.
Shiny, happy people
For some, having that extra day may mean that they get to spend more time with their family. For others, it might be about giving back to the community, getting on board with a social cause, taking up a new hobby or simply engaging in self-care. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself every now and then, right? Right.
Having an extra day to play with means that employees will be engaging in more activities that bring them joy or relaxation, allowing them to recharge and bring that positive energy back into the workplace.
Another benefit observed throughout these trials has been the overall improvement to customer service. Since customers are the backbone of any business, keeping them happy is an absolute must. After having an extra day to themselves, employees became more present and engaged when interacting with customers, leaving them with full confidence in the business, and a smile on their face.
Flexibility in the workplace can be a huge drawcard when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. When potential employees have a reputation for being good at what they do, they are likely to have many organisations vying for their attention. But which will they choose? When they’re all offering a competitive salary and a similar job description, the choice is likely going to come down to the organisational culture and the additional benefits on offer.
With the four-day working week as an option, your organisation may just find itself on the top of the pile. Besides, who wouldn’t want to join a team that is less stressed, more productive and happier?
It’s also likely that these top-tier talents are going to invest in the company for longer periods of time, show greater commitment and higher levels of empowerment and engagement.
Even though they aren’t required to work on their day off, in our experience, most people tend (and are happy) to log-on and check their emails for anything urgent that may need to be actioned. But it’s having the ability and flexibility to do this from home, a café, the park, or anywhere in between that makes it highly attractive.
The four-day week also comes with added environmental benefits too. With less electricity and printer consumables being used, companies will not only save on on overheads, but their environmental footprint will be reduced too. The gigantic footprints can be left to the Sasquatch to create.
Employees who drive to work will also be reducing their individual environmental contribution as they won’t be commuting to the office as often. Greta would approve.
But wait, there’s a catch!
While the four-day working week has proven to be rather successful in its trials, it won’t come without its tribulations.
If your organisation is thinking about adopting it, there are some things you may want to think about before going full steam ahead. One of which being the organisation’s current benefit policies. For example, if employees are currently entitled to 20 days of annual leave, this may need to be reviewed and adjusted to accommodate for the change in working days.
When considering the shortened week, a common concern can be that employees may start off racing through their work with gusto and enthusiasm, but once the shine has worn off the initiative, they may become complacent.
Yes, completing five days of work in four may seem ambitious for the long term, however, it can be managed with regular planning sessions, check-ins and strategy reviews. If a company has employed the right people to begin with, they shouldn’t see anyone exploiting the shortened week.
Another area to think about, especially for service-based industries, is the impact a four-day week will have on your client base. Will not being there for a day slow things down or make managing client relationships trickier? Every business is different, so there isn’t any catch-all solution, but things like choosing the right day to be off, clearly communicating the arrangements with your clients and building in contingency support for emergencies, are all things to consider.
While the four-day working week may not be suitable for every organisation, there are some other flexible working arrangements to consider, that could help to achieve similar results, such as:
- Job sharing
- Working from home
- Part-time roles
- Alternative start and finish times
With all the evidence pointing to flexibility as a pathway to profit, why not take the leap and give it a shot? You may be surprised by the results.