Why a Shorter Working Week Could Be Good for Business
Part of the fabric of America is the concept of the standard five-day workweek. It’s so expected and ingrained in our culture we even have terms like “the Sunday scaries” to describe the anticipation of the stress to come on Monday morning.
But what if terms like this – and the accepted workplace hours, expectations and pressure that goes along with them – were a thing of the past? Perhaps the time has come to release our grip on Henry Ford’s industrial revolution invention of the five-day work week. Across the globe businesses are embracing the four-day work week, and the results are in: business is booming. From, New Zealand to the UK and Sweden, firms are starting to enjoy the increase in productivity and worker satisfaction from a weekly paid day off.
But how could this possibly work? Let’s reflect on just how working just four days a week could be highly beneficial for your business and your workers:
Workers don’t actually “work” eight hours a day
Even though they might be at their desks, the truth is that your workers are only productive for a small percentage of the time: a 2017 Vouchercloud study discovered “the average office worker spends a considerable amount of time procrastinating during their working day, as less than 3 hours is actually spent working productively.” Due to a myriad of issues from interruption to boredom, employees truly believe – and many have proven, they can get more done in less time if they had the ability to focus: a 2018 Workforce Institute at Kronos survey of 3,000 workers discovered more than half thought they could do their daily work in five hours if uninterrupted. If workers have only four days a week to get their work done – and they’re allowed to solely focus on those tasks – think of the spike in productivity.
Fewer days = less chance for burnout
Workers across the world are complaining of burnout, the state of feeling overwhelmed, overtired, and disengaged from the tasks at hand. But companies like New Zealand trust and estate management firm Perpetual Guardian are leading the way with the concept of the four-hour work week with excellent results: the company reported an increase in worker engagement and a reduction in employee stress after testing a 32-hour week in 2018, changes it looks to make permanent.
Automation makes it possible
As artificial intelligence and robotics start to shift roles and responsibilities within the workplace, we find ourselves redeploying talent and reconfiguring how the work gets done. As economic and political leaders have been outlining strategies for how our work-obsessed cultures will inevitably cope with this new dawning of a new type of industrial revolution, adjusting to a four-day week where the human-powered work is accomplished with more focus seems inevitable. John Maynard Keynes predicted the rise of machines consuming human tasks back in 1930, stating we would eventually have five day weekends by this century. While we’re by no means ready to let automation and robotics take over all our tasks, preparing for the inevitable by shifting our concept of the human work week seems intelligent.
Even though you might not be ready to embrace the five-day weekend just yet (although it’s fun to consider the possibilities,) considering shifting to a four-day work week might not be all that inconceivable. Starting with Summer Fridays during the warmer months, institute the policy and watch your worker satisfaction and productivity in real time. You might find that less time in the office equates to more money in the bank.
Rita Trehan is the CEO of dareworldwide, a global transformation company and a best -selling author of the Book entitled “Unleashing Capacity” Ben Laker is Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School, and Expert Commentator of Political Affairs at Bloomberg and Sky News