Why we’re joining the four-day work week crusade
Why we’re now working four days a week
What would happen if we adopted a four-day work week?
We first touched on this topic more than two years ago, pre-pandemic, when we started to see early adopters switch to a shorter working week and evangelise its benefits.
However back then, the shift from a five-day working week model, which has dominated our history for the last 50 years, was too big of a stretch.
Fast forward to today’s COVID-fatigued world.
Four-day week gaining momentum
Search online for “four day week” and you’ll find a plethora of articles, case studies and stories of organisations, and even countries who have trialed or are trialing a shortened working week. These range from small businesses and innovative tech firms to larger household names like Unilever New Zealand, Microsoft and Panasonic Japan.
The four-day working week is gaining real momentum – perhaps even becoming a movement – likely accelerated by the rapid and profound changes in the way we work and play in response to the pandemic.
A small team at tech giant Atlassian experimented with the four-day working week for nine weeks from June to August, 2021, and measured their results. For them, the shorter working week actually increased performance, with reports of better focus and improved overall wellbeing.
While there hasn’t been much in the way of peer-reviewed academic research (yet), there are a number of case studies, articles and white papers that explore this new paradigm.
The benefits of a four-day week
The Henley Business School at the University of Reading (UK) recently investigated the impact of enabling a four-day week across 250 businesses in the UK. The report observed today’s “Quad Gen” workforce (four different generations working together) as a driving force to more flexible working patterns.
The research found numerous benefits for these organisations including £92 billion ($175b) in savings across the businesses, improved productivity, reduced absenteeism, better retention and attraction, less stress, improvement in employee family and personal life and even environmental benefits.
It seems that many originally hesitant and sceptical are now genuinely having conversations about how they make this work – for real!
In June 2021, The ACT Legislative Assembly requested submissions to an inquiry into the future of the working week, highlighting the traction the four-day week has had in Australia.
We’re also seeing more pilots being initiated to put the four-day working week to the test. Last month a UK based pilot programme called ‘4 Day Week Global’ announced it will engage up to 30 businesses to complete a 6-month pilot with researchers at Cambridge, Boston College and Oxford University to empirically test its impact and value.
It’s no surprise that the pandemic has been an enabler for change. Wellbeing, flexibility and gender equality are now organisational imperatives to business performance and key factors in attracting and retaining talent.
Organisations are also continuing to move towards output-measured cultures, and away from rewarding people for time spent ‘at work’ and being readily accessible.
The anecdotal evidence from those early adopters is building. Some of the stated gains are in line with the Atlassian experience and Henley Business School research and include
- Decrease in employee stress and burnout
- Sustained or increase in productivity
- Increase in work-life balance
- Increase in employee engagement and morale
- Increase in job applications (Atom Bank saw an 500% increase in applications in their first 34 hours!)
These positive benefits have meant organisations moving to or trialing a four-day working week have retained full pay to their employees. What a gift!
When we first covered this topic, we highlighted well-researched health benefits, and raised some of our concerns about burnout, workaholism etc. Many of these factors are still at play or have been exacerbated throughout the pandemic.
GLWS data shows a significant drop in the overall wellbeing and happiness of leaders, and a significant increase in feeling stressed, anxious and depressed at work since the onset of COVID in 2020. The risk of burnout is the highest we’ve ever seen it.
So, if it’s ever a time to experiment with different models of working, it’s now.
We don’t claim that a reduction of working days/time is a simple and straight forward move, nor a decision that all employees and organisations want.
Nonetheless, at EEK & SENSE we can see the profound benefits and we’re willing to give it a try ourselves.
So, from 2022 we will be moving to a four-day working week, working Monday to Thursday.
What does this mean for us? Well, this will mean more time to engage in things that are important to us (e.g. exercising, studying, connecting with loved ones, servicing the community, recharging from a busy work week), as well as doing the things that make the balance between work and life a juggle (yep, that includes household chores like washing, grocery shopping and visiting the dentist).
What does this mean for you? We’ll be on deck between Monday and Thursday to take your calls/emails, facilitate workshops, etc. As wellbeing advocates, we’ll be doing our best to set clear boundaries and attend to our clients and work on our set days.
If you’d like to know more, please get in touch! Just don’t expect an answer on Fridays 😊
The data doesn’t lie: what we learned when we tried a 4-day workweek (Atlassian Work Life, 23 September, 2021)
‘We see huge benefits’: firms adopt four-day week in Covid crisis (2 January, 2021)
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