The average British employee is only productive for 2 hours and 23 minutes a day, according to research.
It was this revelation that led one company in New Zealand to trial a 4 day week for all their employees, while still paying them a full salary.
Their reasoning was that if people have an extra day to sort out their life admin and spend more time with their families, they’ll be less distracted and more productive when they are actually at work.
The experiment paid off. Not only did job performance improve, but job stress declined from 45% to 38% and workers’ sense of work-life balance increased from 54% to 78%. People also felt more empowered in their roles and had more confidence in their leaders.
The company behind the experiment, Perpetual Guardian, found it so successful that they recently announced plans to implement the change permanently.
A 4-day working week, but with no reduction in salary. Now, wouldn’t that be nice?
It’s not the first time the working week has been cut down. 6 day working weeks were once the norm, until Henry Ford came up with the then-radical idea of giving his employees the whole weekend off.
Ford was smart. He worked out that he could get at least as good production in five days as in six. By giving people an extra day to themselves, he instantly boosted morale. And with no loss in productivity.
Working Monday to Friday has been ingrained in us for so long that for many, reducing the working week by 20% seems a crazy and impossible thought. How can we possibly get everything done?
But with more companies recognising the value of ‘getting the job done’ over ‘hours in the office’, is it really such a far-fetched idea?
And with the support of technology, we’re moving to a world where flexible working is the norm and employees can work just as easily remotely as they can in the office. Is a shorter working week just the next step in creating a better work-life balance for employees?
Throw in the fact that the UK is seeing a growing number of people opting for self-employment, and perhaps a reduction in contracted hours is one way organisations can loosen the reigns on their employees and offer a similar level of flexibility to rival that of the self-employed.
The 4 day working week may well be within our grasp, if the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has anything to do with it.
Speaking at a conference in September, Frances O’Grady, the TUCs general secretary said: "In the 19th century, unions campaigned for an eight-hour day. In the 20th century, we won the right to a two-day weekend and paid holidays. So, for the 21st century, let’s lift our ambition again. I believe that in this century we can win a four-day working week, with decent pay for everyone."
Frances, I'm with you all the way.
This spring, a New Zealand company tried a new experiment: Employees could work four standard days instead of five, but would be paid their usual salary. Newly released numbers from a study of the project, which lasted eight weeks, show that it worked. Workers’ sense of work-life balance went from 54% to 78%. Stress went down. And the missed hours didn’t affect job performance, which actually slightly improved.