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Is the future a four-day workweek?

What if you woke up on a Friday morning, only to realise that you no longer worked on Fridays? Would you feel excited, indifferent, or exhausted? How would you spend your day? What areas of your life do you think it would improve? Let’s face it, the pandemic has brought awareness to the fact that work-life balance is very important for most people, mental health, wellbeing, and physical health are all topics that have been continuously brought up in the workplace.

Companies such as Panasonic and Unilever NZ are trialling out the four day work week, with the intention that it will help staff with their work-life balance and help with overall productivity. Closer to home, Australian company Inventium decided to trail the shorter workweek from July 2020 to December 2020 and found that productivity and employee engagement soared. As a result, it was agreed that it was a permanent change.

If you’re an employer looking to adopt a four-day week, what goals do you have for your company and employees? Do you think a four-day workweek will benefit the overall satisfaction and productivity in your workplace? Are you an employee looking to change jobs? Would a four-day workweek be more appealing to you? What would you do with your extra time? 

Let’s look at some of the proven benefits of a four-day working week:

Increased productivity

One of the largest benefits of working a four-day workweek has been an increase in productivity. Before the pandemic, Microsoft Japan trilled a four-day work and found that productivity increased by 40%. NZ company Perpetual Guardian also trialled a 4 day work week and found that it led to increased productivity as well as improved employee satisfaction and better work-life balance. 

Better Employee Engagement

Shorting the workweek has been shown to create a more energised, efficient, and motivated workforce. Shifting priorities on delivering outputs and achieving targets, rather than on the time spent at the office has proved to be more beneficial in achieving organisational goals. Better engagement has also proved to help with attracting and retaining employees.

Wellbeing

Working fewer hours improves the work-life balance by reducing burnout, stress, sick leave, and absenteeism. According to a report from Iceland, researchers found that decreasing work hours while keeping the same pay resulted in happier employees, with higher levels of job satisfaction. Employees are able to spend more time with their families, friends, and enjoy hobbies they might otherwise not have time for.

Gender Equality

If women choose to have children, typically their work hours are reduced while unpaid domestic work increases. Allowing people to work four days a week while receiving the same pay, provides for more flexibility with raising children, sharing domestic responsibilities, and saves money on childcare. 

Smaller Carbon Footprint

Shortening the working week means that employees don’t commute as much and less power and electricity are needed to run the office. In 2007, the US state of Utah trailed a four-day workweek for state employees. In 10 months the state saved US$1.8m (AU$2.5m) in energy costs and recorded a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

The four-day workweek has been a hot topic for years, however, with the pandemic, we’re starting to see a shift in work culture, with employers willing to look at different workplace models. With more flexibility in the workplace, will we see more companies adopting a four-day workweek? Based on the various studies, it’s clear that reducing work hours helps benefit the environment, wellbeing, gender equality, engagement, and productivity. Hopefully, we start seeing more of a shift to the four-day workweek model in years to come.