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Or even better: who wants every Friday off? You might have seen the reports about Microsoft Japan who, in August 2019, conducted a trial of a shortened workweek. Their entire 2,300-person workforce worked only Monday to Thursday for five weeks in a row, for an unchanged salary. The results of the trial made news: They reported that their workers were happier, their meetings were more efficient, and their productivity increased by 40%.

The four-day workweek can be perfectly applied based on Parkinson’s law which states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” The number of hours spent at the office does not determine the success or indeed the completion of the work. Your staff “doing time” does not mean they are productive. Perhaps a nine to five, Monday to Friday mindset is outdated and it is time to consider a new model?

Microsoft Japan was not the first to conduct this experiment. A New Zealand trustee services company called Perpetual Guardian conducted the same trial over a two-month period in 2018 with 250 employees. Their results? They reported higher productivity, higher job satisfaction and lower stress levels among their staff.

Other examples are also cited of smaller companies with variations in how the working hours are reduced: some opt to still have 40 hours per week, fit into four 10-hour days. Some reduce the workweek to 32 hours, with employees still working 8 hours per day but only for four days, with employees given the choice of which day they want off. Some close their doors completely for an entire extra day in the week, while others have staff on shifts to cover all normal nine to five, Monday to Friday business hours.

It works for some, and it was disastrous for others. One such an example is Treehouse, a company that offers virtual courses, who tried the four-day workweek in 2015 but cancelled the policy in 2016. Company CEO Ryan Carson’s reason: “It created this lack of worth ethic in me that was fundamentally detrimental to the business and to our mission. It actually was a terrible thing.”

Looking at the various pros and cons reported by the different trials, it becomes clear that it is not a change that could easily be rolled out at any given company.

Some of the advantages:

  • Another day with no work means more personal time.
  • Another day with no commute also means more personal time, and it means employees are spending less on travelling costs.
  • Employees have another day without workday expenses like lunches and coffees.
  • Employees are happier, more engaged, less stressed, which results in staff being more focused on their job while at work.
  • Flexible working hours is a definite perk to retain staff, who would think twice before moving to another company that does not offer it.
  • Likewise, it can be a great way to attract the best talent when recruiting.
  • Some studies find that a shorter workweek cuts the carbon footprint, as commuting is reduced, fewer resources are used at work and staff tend to reduce takeaway food in plastic containers, opting instead to shop and cook because they have more time.
  • Some employees save the expense of a fifth day of childcare.
  • The biggest advantage for employers is an increase in staff productivity.
  • Running costs drop, for those companies that opt to close for the day.

Disadvantages:

  • It doesn’t work for every business and not for every employee.
  • A staff-member might feel pressure to take calls or respond to messages on their day off if everyone else is at work.
  • If the work must be done by someone else while an employee has their day off, it adds to the workload and stress levels of employees having to deal with someone else’s tasks.
  • If customers expect service from you five days a week, but certain people are only available on certain days, service to clients is compromised.
  • Some employees spend more on childcare, as they are working 10-hour shifts.
  • Employees working four 10-hour shifts experience a drop in productivity and an increase in stress levels after so many hours at work.

Tony Papadopoulos, the owner of StaffMatters Recruitment, agrees that it is a very attractive benefit when recruiting and retaining talent, especially since it is rare and gives your company a definite advantage to attract only the best candidates. Given, of course, that all the other benefits and compensation you offer are on par.

He does, however, concede that it is not a model that every company or every employee can adopt. “It would not be an option for the StaffMatters team because we would never want to compromise the level of service that we offer our clients and candidates. Not being available to them at the times of the week when they need us, would not even be an option for us.”

Maybe, with the shifting emphases in work forces increasingly working remotely and with flexible hours, with the focus on environmentally friendly solutions becoming increasingly necessary, with technology making certain aspects of tasks increasingly streamlined, maybe in the future all companies will shift to a shorter workweek. But until then, we’ll be seeing you on Friday!

 

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