Who Wins From a 4-Day Working Week?
Speak to anyone who works part-time and their biggest gripe is that they’re expected to do the same amount of work in their 3 or 4 days that they were when working a 5-day week. So how does working a 4-day week and still being paid for 5 days sound?
Most of you must be wondering how it can benefit the employer without hurting the business because for the employee it makes total sense – especially if they feel they’re working a 4-day week but doing 5-days worth of week without benefitting from the extra day’s pay.
A company in New Zealand has just trialed a 4-day week and now the boss at Perpetual Guardian wants to make it permanent. Earlier this year the trustee company carried out conducted what was essentially a corporate experiment in allowing the company’s 240-person staff to retain full pay as well as a three-day weekend but allowing them to work just 4 full days a week.
The trial was also observed by academic researchers Jarrod Haar, a professor of human resource management at AUT, and Dr. Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School.
Here are some of the results from the trial:
So could it really work for you? These recruiting experts share their views.
Jon Gregory, blogger and editor of Win-that-job.com, says:
From an employee point of view, my experience suggests that would be very attractive, but with some provisos. The benefit is obviously the three day weekend, which facilitates all sorts of things from a personal and a family point of view. However, also from a family point of view, if the four day week came at the expense of flexibility (for appointments, childcare problems, partner illness, etc.) then it would be a less practical and less desirable proposition.
From the employer’s side, it’s also attractive as longer working days are often ultimately more focussed and productive in my experience, depending on the type of company and work that needs doing, especially where teams are united and well led. It’s also attractive from a recruitment perspective, as three day weekends have wide appeal, across the spectrum from worker to professional person to managerial person. There is a downside for smaller companies though. To cover a five, six or seven day week for customers, a company needs a certain critical mass of employees to be able to provide full cover, if staff only work four days. A four day arrangement could potentially stress or disadvantage smaller organisations or departments.
Working a 4 day week on a 5 day pay is hugely advantageous to both employer and employee in my opinion as you gain a lot more accountability from someone who is given the chance to work remotely and encourages an empowered culture – a word of caution though/ this should not be abused as it will create a negative impact for everyone else
I think it would be attractive to potential recruiters seeking a new move in the market and many recruitment companies do now offer a more flexible approach to their working week to reflect modern society’s evolution into a more remote workforce and I celebrate this.
From personal experience of working 5, 4 and 3 day weeks I know I was most productive on less than 5 and this is a common experience. I think this is for 2 reasons. Firstly because it forces you to be clearer on your priorities and what you spend your time on. Secondly the increased non work time gives you a greater mental break. This is backed up by research on the benefits of recovery.
That said there’s also an element of competition at play – what you get done vs full time colleagues. The same applies at an organisational level – so it follows that companies leading the way on this will derive greater benefits in terms of talent attraction and retention. If everyone worked 4 days these benefits would arguably be reduced.
However in a world of work moving away from repetitive tasks to one where thinking is the core value an employee brings, it seems to me there can only be upside in providing greater time for recovery and empowering employees to choose where to spend more limited work time – which can only be good for employees and employers alike.
Most candidates would, undoubtedly, be quite excited by the prospect of working four days a week on a full-time salary, provided that it didn’t simply equate to 12-hour days, four days a week!
The experiment is an interesting one, however it assumes that there is slack to be tightened across employee workloads, which won’t always be the case. While work-life balance would undoubtedly improve and enhance the wellbeing of employees, existing workloads across teams / workforces would need to be very carefully reviewed (and re-distributed) before employers could cut down on employee hours.
It would certainly be interesting to see absenteeism and productivity data over the long-term and the corresponding impact on talent retention, employer brand and revenue.