Employee productivity. It’s something which all businesses wish to get right, but it seems there are only a few workplaces experimenting with ‘out of the box’ thinking to provide their workforce with the best possible working environment. Adam Grant, Professor of Management and Psychology at The Whaton School, suggests the typical nine-to-five day should end two hours earlier.
"Let's make work days shorter: they should finish at 3pm, we can be as productive and creative in six focused hours as in eight unfocused hours" Adam Grant’s recent LinkedIn post.
Could we apply the same thinking to a four-day working week?
“If employees are engaged with their job and employer, they are more productive. We believe efficiency will come with more staff focus and motivation, and this trial is a valuable and timely way to test our theories.” - Christine Brotherton, Head of People and Capability at Perpetual Guardian
Is this an example of extreme flexible working, or will four-day weeks become the new norm?
In New Zealand, businesses have recognised the increasing importance of flexibility, pioneering innovative new ways to drive employee productivity. New Zealand financial services business Perpetual Guardian offered their workforce a four-day week, hoping to encourage a happier outlook, improved capacity and a better work/life balance.
During the trial, 78% of employees felt they could more successfully manage their work-life balance
240 members of staff trialled the four-day week, resulting in a 30% increase in employee engagement levels. This innovative two-month trial suggests that by allowing the workforce to cut down to four days a week (while still receiving a salary for five days), levels of employee satisfaction are higher, while the level of productivity is maintained. Results also showed an improved employee work/life balance, with employee stress levels reduced by 7%.
The science behind creating a four-day working week
“An enduring theme across all groups is that individuals had more time to accomplish tasks in their personal lives that are often ‘crammed in’, ‘put off’ or ‘rushed between’ in a five-day work schedule. Many reported a satisfaction with accomplishing these personal tasks, and this feeling spilled over to the workplace as an overarching feeling of motivation and productivity.” Dr Helen Delaney of the University of Auckland Business School, one of the researchers who supervised the experiment.
Could the four-day week become the new norm?
Other business leaders have weighed in on the four-day work week debate: Richard Branson recently said “it's easier to attract top talent when you are open and flexible, it's not effective or productive to force them to behave in a conventional way”.
However, Ryan Carson, the founder and CEO of the programming-education company Treehouse, who introduced a four-day week in 2015, recently reversed to a standard working week, stating "it created this lack of work ethic in me that was fundamentally detrimental to the business and to our mission. It actually was a terrible thing."
One could argue the four-day week could only see potential success in a certain type of industry; one with the right culture and ethos. However, the trial at Perpetual Guardian was overseen by the University of Auckland Business School and has been such a success that the organisation is looking to make the change to a four-day work week permanently.