In the first of our 2 part series we look at the concept and people behind the push for a 4 day work week.
A growing number of companies around the world are considering making the switch to shorter working weeks. Last month, 20 companies in Australia and New Zealand joined 151 companies in five other countries in a six-month trial of the four-day work week.
The 4 day week pilot programme is a coordinated trial in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific of a 4 day week, with no loss in pay for employees. It runs alongside similar pilot schemes taking place in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Spain and the U.K.
The Australasian trial is part of a global pilot being run by New Zealand not-for-profit advocacy group 4 Day Week Global. The group is led by entrepreneur Charlotte Lockhart and Chief Executive of New Zealand’s Perpetual Guardian, Andrew Barnes. Perpetual Guardian, an investment and estate planning company administering or supervising assets valued over $150 billion, moved to a four-day work week in 2018.
The theory behind the shorter week is to offer employees flexible hours while increasing their productivity during working hours, and comes as employers are rethinking the traditional parameters of the 9 to 5 working week amid the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organisers of the pilot promote that adopting a 4 day week is a business improvement strategy centered on working smarter rather than longer, and investing in the physical and emotional wellbeing of their team members. They advocate for the 100-80-100 model – 100% of the pay, 80% of the time at work, but critically in exchange for 100% of the productivity.
Proponents claim a 4 day work week can improve productivity, employee wellbeing, engagement, talent attraction, gender equality, sustainability and innovation. They cite the example of Microsoft Japan, who tested a shortened work schedule for its 2300-person workforce over five consecutive weeks in 2019. Microsoft’s schedule included capping all meetings to 5 people, and were no longer than 30 minutes. The company reported its productivity increased by 39.9%.
“Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot,” Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said in a statement to Microsoft Japan’s website. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”
So can a shorter working week work for you? Would your business skyrocket or would productivity take a hit? In our next blog, we look at what you should consider if considering adopting (or at least trialing) your own 4 day work week.
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