Have you ever had a bank holiday off, come into work the following day, and thought to yourself, ‘this feels right’? The end of the week isn’t as dauntingly far away, you’re able to make more plans, and you aren't shattered by the end of the week?
This is what it’s like working at Pursuit Marketing, who have launched a 4 day week. From now on, its sales and telemarketing team has no obligation to come into work on Friday, with no reduction in pay or benefits. This groundbreaking approach is part of a wider attempt to improve the work-life balance of their employees for a more positive and attractive workplace. Happier and healthier employees can do more work at a higher quality, even if (in fact, because) the number of hours they work is reduced. This has already proven to be effective: Pursuit claim a 30% increase in productivity, and a decrease in sickness by two thirds. The hope is that this approach will be an effective strategy to entice and retain more employees. Fridays are left to the sales team to spend however they want, so whilst they still have the option of working on Friday to earn a greater bonus, they are equally welcome to take advantage of the initiative by going travelling, meeting new people, or just relaxing at home.
Pursuit is one of the first companies in its sector to introduce such an arrangement in the UK. But if it’s worked so well for them, then why haven’t other companies implemented similar measures? The research seems clear: experiments by K. Anders Ericsson, Swedish psychologist and a leader in the field of the psychological nature of expertise and performance, have demonstrated that workers can only apply themselves to four or five hours of concentrated work at a time before they stop being productive. Past the peak performance level, output tends to flatline or even deteriorate. By pushing people to work for longer than they can concentrate maximally, they can start to display some bad habits. If they continue like this, these bad habits could be picked up permanently and invade the work done on shorter weeks.
The 5 day week is an outmoded concept. According to author Philip Sopher, the two-day weekend comes from the time of the Great Depression, as before then workers had to work half days on Saturday and only had Sundays off. The shorter hours were thought of as a solution to the problem of unemployment. But though our economy, marketplace and technology has changed since then, the week hasn’t adapted with it.
Benefits of a 4 Day Week
In our culture, being a workaholic is seen as a good thing. As a result, companies often get away with giving their employees just one or two days off, along with a lot of overtime. However, no one wants to spend all of their time at work. Even if it’s a job you love, it’s still work, and you still have to go even on the days you don’t want to. Therefore, you might think there’d be a correlation between happiness and working fewer hours, and you’d be right. The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have some of the shortest working weeks in the world – the Dutch work an average of just 29 hours a week, whilst the Danish and Norwegian workforce clock in an average of 33 hours a week. These countries also just so happen to be within the top 10 happiest countries in the world, according to the 2016 World Happiness Report. In fact, many of the happiest countries in the world tend to have short working weeks. Despite their reduced work time, these countries are still hardly falling apart, proving that organisations can be equally functional, if not more so, with fewer hours of work put into them. You may argue that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, but The World Happiness Reports have demonstrated that a major benefit of being happy is increased productivity. Happy people tend to live longer lives and happy countries tend to notice reduced crime rates. Having more work hours doesn’t necessarily mean more work will get done. You can’t force creativity and critical thinking. In fact, working too many hours can stifle creativity, as creativity thrives in a free, relaxed environment. Giving people more hours to work also gives them more time to procrastinate from their routine, so a shorter week can make your team more productive by giving them less time to distract themselves.
Doing what you can to make your employees happier isn’t just a nice gesture. One of the main reasons people leave their jobs is because they aren’t getting the satisfaction they require. What they put in isn’t what they get out of it, and so they find other opportunities that they find more fulfilling. If your business has a high turnover of employees, you should think about whether you are adequately offering the security, recognition, purpose and freedom that your workers need. A four-day workweek can help you provide this to your team, as happy employees are more likely to find their purpose, which will motivate them to perform better. Their improved performance can in turn grant more recognition, and they will still have more time to themselves. Having a better workplace with fewer working hours will also attract more talent to your business, as well as keep your existing workforce happy.
As Pursuit continue to demonstrate the benefits of a shorter workweek, hopefully other businesses will follow suit to improve their business processes, and improve the health and well-being of our country’s workforce. Whether you’re motivated by money, freedom, or producing quality work, a 4 day week is in your interests and benefit you, with no downside.