The recent announcement by New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian that their experiment in introducing a four-day week for employees has resulted in 78% of employees feeling they were able to successfully manage their work/life balance (an increase of 24 percentage points) struck a chord with Mark, who’s been working flexible hours on and off for the last 20 years.
Hands up who wouldn’t want to work a four-day week on the same pay? It seems a no-brainer as in doing so, we’ll get reduced levels of stress, more time to relax and recharge and a better work-life balance. Of course, there are organisations that offer flexible working patterns to employees, but not many who would pay you for five days when you only work four!
Perpetual Guardian’s experiment with this approach was surely going to be a success (I’m actually surprised that only 78% of employees reported that they were able to successfully manage their work-life balance!). I first started working a four-day week in 1998 and I immediately felt significant benefits. I had huge amounts more energy, was far more productive, and got better results. I usually tried to take the same day off each week to maintain some consistency, but invariably I had to be flexible around any work demands.
To make a three or four-day week a success, both parties (employer and employee) must take a very adult approach and trust each other that the work will still get done and that the office won’t be left empty every Friday afternoon or Monday morning. Perpetual Guardian’s experiment exemplifies this adult-to-adult attitude with maintaining levels of pay, by saying “we want you to be happy and productive but also recognise that you have to earn a living”. It’s a bold approach and one that still has to be fully implemented as company policy. I’d also be interested to see more data on their business results and productivity in addition to employee satisfaction. I’ll be watching with interest where this goes and who else follows their lead.
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