Could a 4-Day Workweek be the Future of Productivity?

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Photo: BusinessTech

Have you ever wondered how having an extra day off a week might affect your productivity at work? You would probably assume it would go down, as would your pay. But that might just not be the case. One company in New Zealand recently decided to test the productivity levels of a four-day work week. They kept the pay the same but shortened the week just by one single day. The trial was so successful, management is seeking to make the change permanent.

Four Days a Week

Perpetual Guardian is a 240-employee New Zealand firm that manages trusts, wills, and estates. They decided to give the four-day workweek a try but vowed to keep the employees pay the exact same. The teams were given a month to prepare. Most put in productivity measures in place before the trial officially kicked off on March 5. Perpetual enlisted the help of Dr. Helene Delaney from the University of Auckland Business School and Professor Jarrod Haar of the Auckland University of Technology to conduct the study.

For the experiment, employees completed surveys preceding the trial and after the trial. To their surprise, the results of the shorter week spoke for themselves.

Planning for the Trail

The planning phase before the trial had a beneficial impact on the behavior of employees in the workplace. The study found that the planning discussions pre-trial actually resulted in more employees implementing new ways to be more efficient in the workplace. These productivity hacks included automating manual processes, shorter and more focused meetings, combining meal breaks with work tasks and getting rid of non-work related Internet use.

Results of the Trail

After the trial, things like staff stress levels, performance, and management of work-life balance were measured.

Staff said that their stress levels lowered 7 percent. 78 percent of employees felt like they could manage work-life balance better, compared to the 54 percent pre-trial. Team engagement levels including leadership, commitment, stimulation and empowerment, all climbed post-trial as well. It was also found that the employees felt an increased level of teamwork and collaboration. They all felt a mutual willingness to ‘help each other out,’” reads the report.

Outside of work, employees reported other benefits, such as having more time to participate in family life, restore, reconnect and even explore and imagine. “Many employees see the reduced working hours as ‘a gift’ and ‘a privilege not a right,’ and feel a deep sense of goodwill and reciprocity towards the organization, which manifests in an openness to ‘go the extra mile’ and think about ‘what I can do to give back,’” the qualitative analysis reads. “Many employees reported a willingness to be available for work purposes on their day off.”

As a result of the trial, Perpetual Guardian CEO Andrew Barnes has recommended to its board that the four-day workweek be made permanent.

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