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Four-Day Working Week Trial Is A Success With Happier, More Productive Staff

In a bit of good news about the future of your work-life balance: an analysis has been done of one of the most significant four-day working week trials ever carried out and it looks like cutting down a day is the way forward.

The results released on Tuesday revealed that, despite the working week being cut by 20 per cent (from 37.5 hours to 30), there was no drop in work output, reported stress were reduced because of the extra rest day and staff were more engaged with the company.

Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

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And the data is fuelling hopes that a better work-life-balance for millions of us could finally be in sight (insert prayer-hands emoji).

The New Zealand financial services company who did the trial, called Perpetual Guardian, switched its 240 lucky staff from a five-day week to a four-day week last November - without cutting their pay.

In the four days that they were at their desks, the results of the analysis showed that there was no drop in the total amount of work done. In other words: they worked harder and more consistently and got sh*t done, because: long weekend.

The University of Auckland and the Auckland University of Technology joined forces to monitor the results of the groundbreaking, and arguably long-overdue, trial.

Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

When staff from Perpetual Guardian staff were given a survey to fill out during the trial they found that scores given by workers on factors like leadership, stimulation, empowerment and commitment all increased compared with a 2017 review.

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Commitment and empowerment showed the biggest increase, meaning that staff were thankful for the opportunity and felt more positively towards the financial services company as a result.

The best, and most important factor, was that reported staff stress levels decreased from 45 per cent to 38 per cent and employees said their work-life balance had improved from 54 per cent to a whopping 78 per cent.

Tammy Barker, a branch manager who was part of the trial, explained to the Guardian: "We've been treated like adults and I think as a result everyone is behaving like adults."

The eight-week experiment was closely monitored by employment policymakers globally.

Perpetual Guardian has been inundated with more than 350 requests for information about the trial from 28 countries.

Amazingly most have come from organisations in the UK, followed by Australia, the US and Germany and the Labour party has also commissioned research into the possibilities of a four-day week.

UK average working hours have been increasing since the financial crisis.

But early research signalled that it would be difficult to increase productivity in industries like retail and public services (like nursing and policing) where being present is a key part of the job to the service provided.

Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

And smaller companies who've experimented with cutting weekly working hours found that, while performance was better in the first few weeks, it dropped slightly as the novelty wore off.

Tammy said: "The biggest concern from an employer point of view is ensuring that the full-time introduction of the policy doesn't lead to complacency, with the risk that people's productivity will slip back.

"To guard against this happening we've spent a lot of time making sure every person in every team has their own plan as to how they're going to maintain and even improve their productivity."

On a personal level, Tammy found that working less increased her focus on individual tasks and prevented her from being distracted and jumping from one thing to the next.

"I was actually finishing projects before moving on to the next one, and by the end of the day found I was accomplishing more than trying to multitask everything.

"I did find that my productivity increased purely by being more aware of my work processes and thinking about how I was doing things and why I was doing them. At the same time, I didn't feel any more stressed at work probably because I was really focussing on the tasks at hand and because I had the extra day off to compensate for the increased work rate."

Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

People from the NZ company said they used the extra day off to do more weekend leisure activities like golfing or watching Netflix.

But professor of human resource management at the Auckland University of Technology, Jarrod Haar, said new activities that we often neglect over a two-day weekend had started to creep in. These included "spending time with parents", "spending much-needed time studying", and "cleaning the house on a Wednesday and then having the weekend free".

He explained: "Managers reported their teams were more creative after the trial.

"It involved them finding solutions to doing their work in four days, so this reflected well. Importantly, they rated their teams as giving better customer service - they were more engaging and focussed when clients and customers called."

Lower job stress and burnout were reported from employees and work-life balance levels were at a record high.

He added: "Beyond wellbeing, employees reported their teams were stronger and functioned better together, more satisfied with their jobs, more engaged and they felt their work had greater meaning.

Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

"They also reported being more committed to the organisation and less likely to look elsewhere for a job."

Andrew Barnes, Perpetual Guardian's founder and chief executive said: "Having implemented the four-day week on an opt-in basis we are continuing to identify ways to raise productivity and improve engagement, wellbeing and job satisfaction within this groundbreaking model of flexibility."

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash

Topics: You, Life News, Real, Fitness, advice

Amelia Jones

Amelia is a freelance journalist and editor specialising in beauty, health, fitness and lifestyle. She has previously worked for titles including Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, Red and the Mail on Sunday. Follow her on Instagram @ameliajeanjones or contact her via email at ameliajeanjones@gmail.com.

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