For eight weeks last spring, an Auckland, New Zealand, company tried an experiment: It allowed employees to work four days a week but get paid for five.
The result was encouragingly positive. Employees at Perpetual Guardian, a trust and estate planning firm, got the same amount of work done (if not more) in the shorter week. Employees’ satisfaction with work-life balance increased from 54% to 78%. They reported less stress.
It was so successful, in fact, that the company is looking to make the four day workweek a permanent change.
Chief Executive Officer Andrew Barnes was inspired to try the experiment when he read the average British employee is productive only 2.5 hours a day.
“Often there are lots of small inefficiencies that never get addressed in a company because they are just really too small for someone to focus their time on,” Barnes said in a July 20 Fast Company article. “Now, because there was a prize — namely to have a day off — all of those little things got addressed or got identified.”
Meetings were shortened from two hours to half an hour. Employees spent less time on social media. And workers found ways to signal that they were not to be interrupted, such as placing a flag in a pot next to their computer. Also, with fewer people in the office each day, there was less noise and fewer distractions, not to mention lower electric bills.
Professors from Auckland University of Technology surveyed employees before and after the trial. They found employees were happier with their jobs and themselves, they felt more empowered and engaged, and their commitment to their employer rose from 68% to 88%.