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October 16th, 2018 at 10:47 am

Four-day work week to be made permanent after company finds ‘no downside’

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A four-day work week will be made permanent at a New Zealand company after a trial was so successful it found there was ‘no downside’. Staff reported better productivity, a better work-life balance and lower stress levels after working four eight-hour days a week for two months.

The trial at Perpetual Guardian – a financial services firm that manages trusts, wills and estates – involved almost 250 employees across 16 offices.

Staff reported a better work/life balance, having more energy and improved mental health (Picture: Getty)

They worked four days equalling 32 working hours instead of 40 across the week – but were still paid for five days.

Founder of the Auckland-based company, Andrew Barnes, said there was ‘no downside’ to the new system and that staff reported reaping the benefits of extra downtime.

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Researchers from Auckland University of Technology studied the effects and found employees were turning up on time, not leaving early, attendance was better and staff took fewer breaks.

Their actual job performance didn’t change, researchers said at the time. The staff will now be given the option of whether or not to opt into the new scheme, with those who opt to stick to a five-day structure given other benefits such as shorter working hours.

‘For us, this is about our company getting improved productivity from greater workplace efficiencies… there’s no downside for us,’ Mr Barnes said. ‘The right attitude is a requirement to make it work – everyone has to be committed and take it seriously for us to create a viable long-term model for our business.’

IMG_9387 The trial found staff were smarter with their time so that they got the same amount of work done in four days (Picture: Getty)

Jarrod Haar, a human resources professor at Auckland University, said staff in the trial reported coming back to work energised after their days off. They said the change motivated them to find ways of increasing their productivity while in the office, including cutting meetings to 30 minutes at a time and signalling to colleagues when they needed no distractions.  ‘They worked out where they were wasting time and worked smarter, not harder,’ Mr Haar said.

Barnes said the experiment had potential implications for everything from work/life balance to the gender pay gap and the mental well-being of workers. He said this could motivate employees to produce better work in a shorter time period.

The Academics who studied Mr Barnes’ employees said that in November last year, just over half of staff felt they could balance their work and home commitments.

Where else is a four-day week working? Similar experiments have been carried out in other countries as a way of improving productivity.

In Sweden, a trial in the city of Gothenburg mandated a six-hour day, and officials found employees completed the same amount of work or even more.

France trialled a 35-hour workweek in 2000, but businesses complained of reduced competitiveness and increased hiring costs. Andrew Barnes, the company’s founder, said he came up with the idea for a four-day work week after reading a report that suggested people spent less than three hours of their work day being productive.

He is considering making the move permanent and believes it will benefit working mothers most, since those returning to work from maternity leave often negotiated part-time hours, but performed the equivalent of full-time work.

Before the trial, around half (54%) thought they could balance their work and home lives. After the trial, this jumped to 78%.

Staff stress levels decreased by seven percentage points across the board as a result of the trial, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by five percentage points.

Tammy Barker, a senior client manager at the company and a mother-of-two, said she spent her day off each week running personal errands, attending appointments and shopping for groceries, which allowed her to spend more time with her family on weekends. She had realised during the trial how often she jumped between tasks at work as her concentration waned.

Via Metro U.K.

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