The 4 Day Week has made waves around the world. I say this loudly and proudly, not just because it means more businesses around the world are considering and implementing their own versions, but because of the wide-reaching benefits this has for everyone.
Let’s travel back in time for a moment. This story really begins with an article and an idea Andrew Barnes had on a plane, which shortly after led to a successful trial and implementation of the 4 Day Week in his New Zealand-based trustee company, Perpetual Guardian.
The results of the programme have been amazing, and surprised the leadership team, the researchers and the staff themselves. Staff stress levels lowered (45 per cent pre-trial, 38 per cent post-trial), work-life balance increased significantly (54 per cent pre-trial, 78 per cent post-trial) – results which AUT Professor of Human Resource Management of Jarrod Haar was impressed by, stating, “I specialise in work-life balance – and the Four-Day Week has got to be the strongest contender for improving work-life balance amongst employees.”
Now, the high-profile case of Microsoft Japan showed yet again that the 100-80-100 principle – paying 100 per cent of remuneration, for 80 per cent of time in the office, for 100 per cent of agreed productivity – actually leads to an even higher output. Yet, I think it’s fitting to talk about the other benefits that come with working a four-day week as well.
As CEO of the 4 Day Week Global, I’ve witnessed first-hand how thinking about work just a little bit differently can make a huge difference to individuals, companies and communities globally. While the foundation for a four-day week is about maintaining business productivity, our goal is for people to be '100% human' not only at work, but also '100% human' in their personal lives. They get a chance to connect with their families, communities and their own personal goals by providing the extra time needed to participate in more non-work activities.
So besides improving productivity, what are the benefits of a four-day week?
1. The gender pay gap
An OECD assessment of the position of women juggling the demands of work and home life drives home the point that women are often perceived by employers to be a poorer long-term choice. Yet ironically, it’s well-known that working mothers are among the most productive of employees. Whether we talk about gender, ethnicity, age, sexual, gender identity or any other diversity factor – I say it’s about time we recognised that by remunerating based on productivity instead of time.
2. The gig economy
The primary advantage of a gig job is that it gives workers flexibility in work. This is more than cancelled out by the non-provision of basic worker protections (annual leave, sick pay, parental leave, pension savings and more) that have been hard-won over decades of labour organisation. The 4-day week allows for flexibility without compromising the protections employees have under standard legislation framework or adding to stress levels further.
3. Mental health
Speaking of stress, the causes and exacerbation of mental health problems are generally well understood – and, surprise, stress features highly. The World Health Organisation identifies work-related risk factors for health as inadequate health and safety policies, poor communication and management practices, low levels of support for employees, inflexible working hours and unclear tasks or organisation objectives, in addition to low control over one’s area of work. I might just leave this one here to sink in. All I’ll say is that a jaded worker is never a good thing.
4. Climate change and sustainability
If we look at the US alone, two of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions are transportation (29 per cent) and electricity production (28 per cent), with about 135 million Americans commuting to work. On a four-day week, employees don’t have to commute to work as often and are supported in working remotely, while employers can afford to use less space and electricity (for example) as fewer people are on-site daily. This, ultimately, lessens the environmental footprint of the employer and employee alike.
We have some way to go to ensure everyone globally has access to the future of work. In New Zealand, for example, the employment legislation does not allow for the sort of flexibility in the workplace needed in the 21st century. Days, hours and place of work are stipulated in all employment contracts, making it difficult for employers to create a more beneficial work environment.
Governments around the world are catching on, with the UK, Russia and Australia among those actively pursuing a more 21st century-oriented approach to working as part of their legislation. This, to me, signifies that slowly but steadily the levers are turning towards positive and much-needed change. So, whether you are already a ‘believer’, or want to learn more about what it takes to make the future of work happen – I invite you to join the conversation.
- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.