Today we are programmed to believe that working longer and harder means that we are more successful and productive.
However, some researchers and employers have found that working less is actually more beneficial for both businesses and their workers.
Many employers found that having a four-day work week increased productivity and job satisfaction, and helped workers retain work-life balance and a healthier attitude towards life and work.
Have you ever given thought about the times where you were keyed up to go on holiday, and in that week you achieved double the amount as you normally would? This is because you had a time restraint, and the thought of having work piled up and spilled over into your holiday – where you’d rather be relaxing and doing nothing – was enough of an incentive to knuckle down and sacrifice your time so you can enjoy it later.
The notion of the four-day work week is the same. Researchers believe that by having to work less, workers will actually work more.
The concept of the four-day work week was introduced in the 1950s by American labour union leader Walter Reuther. However, businesses have been slow to catch onto this strategy – sacrificing worker productivity, talents, and happiness.
There are an increasing number of companies who have seen the benefits of a four-day week and are now sticking by it, including online education company Treehouse, whose CEO Ryan Carson states it increases both output and morale, Slingshot SEO, and Google co-founder Larry Page also advocating the 4-day work week and the flexibility it gives – saying that this idea that everyone having to work frantically is “just not true”.
Interestingly, polls show that 70 per cent of millionaires think the four-day work-week is a “valid idea.” Recently, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim actually called for a three-day work-week.
Here are five other reasons why a 4-day work week is a good idea:
1. It makes workers more productive
Many would believe that reducing the five-day work week will make workers lazier or will crash productivity. But how many of those 8-hour days are you actually working? Research from America Online and Salary.com have discovered that the average worker wastes about two hours every day, filling in time where they can be productive with things such as taking calls, looking at emails, and browsing the Internet,
Experiments with shortening the workweek have yielded positive results in terms of productivity. When the U.S state of Utah put public workers on a four-day working week, they found that production increased along with customer satisfaction.
In an article for the New York Times, Jason Fried, who runs the software company 37signals, said that his employees do better work during their four-day work weeks.
“When there’s less time to work, you waste less time. When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important. Constraining time encourages quality time.”
2. It’s good for the environment
One less day of work means one less day of electricity use and less time spent driving or commuting. And according to a report by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, a global shift toward shorter working hours could reduce carbon emissions enough to halve additional expected global warming between now and 2100.
3. It makes workers happier
One of the recurring concerns of AYCW members and those who filled out our Culture in the Workplace questionnaire was the problem of securing a good “work-life balance”. This made people feel unhappy, unfulfilled, and stressed.
By introducing a four-day work week, workers will have more time to spend doing things that are personally and spiritually fulfilling to them, allowing them to have a better balance between work and play.
Ryan Carlson of Treehouse says he finds his workers “invigorated and excited” when they come in after a three-day weekend. He also finds that it’s easier both to recruit and retain workers with a four-day work-week policy, because their lives are more balanced and they feel much happier.
4. It creates a healthier workforce
We’ve all been there. Being sick or having to schedule doctor’s appointments to fit in with work can be a hassle, and often leads us to putting monthly or yearly visits off.
A lot of illness is directly linked to stress and fatigue, by-products of long working hours and demanding workloads/schedules.
Healthier workers means less sick days, and more time to tend to one’s personal health and fitness, reducing workplace-related injury and stresses.
5. It will bring us into the 21st century
Modern society still seems to promote “overworking”.
In Australia, the average weekly hours worked is a little below the OECD countries combined, at 38 hours. This of course doesn’t include overtime or additional hours.
The “9-5” expectation still remains, but “flexitime” is increasingly becoming more common, with workers covering a range of working times from 7-3 or 10-6.
This is a good sign, as there seems to be more of a healthy respect for work-life balance in Australian workplaces, compared to other countries in the world.
Zain, from Pakistan and currently studying in Melbourne, says he has noticed a difference between working hours in Australia and in his own country. “In Pakistan, the standard practice is 9 to 5, but most businesses operate six days (having Fridays or Saturdays as half days). If employees are working extra hours, which happens quite a lot, they might not get extra payment or compensation. In Australia, although working late hours and weekends is a reality, employees do get compensated if they work more than 40 hours a week.”