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Is A 4 Day Work Week Really More Productive?

11 September 2018
Besma Whayeb
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The four day work week may be coming to a workplace near you soon. That’s right – after a New Zealand business trialled a shorter week with positive results, there has been talk around the world about changing up the amount of days we all work.

But will it work? Here’s a few factors to consider before you petition your boss…

Less Time Increases Productivity

…at least, that’s the theory. By having the same amount of work, but less time to do it in, workplaces that have trialled the four-day work week reported similar results despite the shorter hours.

Some studies attribute this to a “work smarter, not harder” approach. With less time, staff have to adapt their workload, learn to prioritise, and cut short any time-wasting activities.

This theory can also be seen when considering entire countries’ productivity. On average, Germans work the least number of hours per year, followed by Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands. They are also some of the most productive countries by GDP, and have the happiest citizens.

Longer Work Days = Shorter Work Weeks

In the case of Perpetual Guardian, the New Zealand firm that trialled a four day work week with brilliant results, staff worked four eight-hour days in return for five days’ pay.

This equates to a pay-rise alongside less hours, which would evidently increase productivity. We would all love to work less and be paid more, but is it really feasible?

In most cases, a four day work week comes with longer work days. A recent YouGov poll found that 48% of the British working population would prefer to work longer hours for an additional day off.

Blocking off more time each day to work might seem appealing, however employers could actually see a decrease in productivity. Studies have shown optimum productivity can only be sustained for four to five hours, meaning there may actually be more work to do at the end of a four day week.

Novelty is a Great Motivator

With so much conflicting information around our productivity, there may be a final factor to consider: novelty.

Just as the above examples have attracted global media attention, it shows that the current work week is something many of us would like to change.

From the Swedish care home that trialled a six hour work day and saw a 10% reduction in sick leave, to the New Zealand firm that had great success in providing a four day work week (with less hours and more pay), perhaps what we really crave is flexibility.

A Symptom of Something Else

With more and more employers advertising jobs with flexible working, if you’re looking for a change in work week, this might be the true answer.

If you’re craving a shorter work week, it may be a sign that you’re unhappy in your office, or your job role. And of course, if there’s a culture of “looking busy“, you should probably start your job search right away!