The four-day workweek works

And, it will soon be coming to an office near you — including yours.

Conceptual photo of toy businessmen walking on clock

Last June, in a UK pilot project, thousands of employees started working a four-day week for the same pay.

With 3,300 workers at 70 companies, ranging from a car parts retailer to an animation studio, marketing agency, and fish-and-chips shop, it was the biggest experiment of its sort ever. Four months later, the results are coming in.

And — drumroll, please — people on a four-day-a-week schedule work just as well as those on a traditional schedule.

In fact, 95% of companies surveyed by 4 Day Week Global say their productivity levels have either stayed the same or improved. Indeed, 46% say business productivity has "maintained around the same level," 34% report it has "improved slightly," and 15% say it has 'improved significantly.'

Of these companies, 86% are considering making the switch for good.

They'd better. As Samantha Losey, managing director of Unity, a London-based public relations firm, told CNN Business: "[My head] would roll like Marie Antoinette's if I said to this team, 'We're not doing this anymore.'"

People love the four-day-a-week schedule.

This schedule, by the way, is not a four-day-a-week, 10 hours a day schedule. It's eight hours a day. It's based on the "100-80-100" theory. In it, workers get 100% pay for 80% of the ordinary work time while working with an expectation of 100% productivity.

It's a theory no more. We now know it works.

This hasn't been the only such real-world experiment. For example, Microsoft Japan saw a 40% jump in productivity, while Kickstarter, the global crowdfunding company, has done well with its four-day workweek.

Why does it work? Well, for one thing, businesses using this approach have found that staff turnover, e.g., the Great Resignation, burnout, sick days, and disengaged workers (you know, quiet quitting), all decreased significantly.

Bolt Financial, the company behind a popular one-click checkout solution, switched to a four-day workweek. And, as Bolt's founder and CEO Ryan Breslow told CNBC, "A lot of companies operate with a lot of work theater, which is people caring more about the appearance of working than the actual work." With four-day workweeks, employees use their working hours more efficiently.

Take Unilever New Zealand. It uses a four-day workweek schedule, and managing director Nick Bangs explained things this way: "Our goal is to measure performance on output, not time. We believe the old ways of working are outdated and no longer fit for purpose."

That's because people come to their work more refreshed and energized.

And the time they spend at work tends to be more productive. As a result, fewer hours are wasted on Friday afternoons, for instance, when everyone tends to look more at the clock than at their keyboards.

As Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the 4-Day Global program director, told "Computerworld," "Many people don't want to go back to office life Monday through Friday, and a four-day [workweek] offers features that for some companies make it more attractive than flexible or fully remote work (though you can combine those with a four-day week)."

If that sounds familiar, it should.

These are the same results companies see when they embrace letting their people work remotely. Both businesses and employees realize that the old ways of working have passed their use-by date. So letting people work where and when they want to work is a win for them and their employers.

The writing is on the wall for those who can read it.

More than 60 companies in North America have just announced they'll give the four-day workweek a try. Meanwhile, in Australia and New Zealand, 30 more businesses are doing the same thing.  

No one pretends that this will be easy or that there's a simple, fill-in-the-blank way of making this change. Instead, no matter what kind of business you have, you must design and roll out the best approach for your team.

Every company is different.

The 4-Day Global group suggests you look at their case studies to see real-world examples of how it works. Of course, making this kind of change will take some time. After all, when Henry Ford introduced the five-day week over his entire business, he spent three years at it.

Thinking of Ford, it's worth remembering that, just like today, his critics argued that his workers wouldn't be as productive if they weren't working 48 hours a week.

They were wrong, then. They're wrong now.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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