The Case for the 4-Day Workweek

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Given the number of workers today who are struggling to achieve a good work-life balance, it pays for companies to explore the merits of offering more flexible arrangements. One company in New Zealand, in fact, did just that, and it was a resounding success.

Perpetual Guardian, a company that offers estate planning services, conducted an experiment wherein it condensed its workweek into only four days for a two-month period. During that time, employees were still paid for a standard five-day workweek but weren't required to show up that extra day.

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The result? The company reported that its workers were more focused and productive, spending less time on non-work activity since, presumably, they were afforded more opportunity to tend to personal matters. Employees also reported a better work-life balance and lower stress levels across the board. Perpetual Guardian now wants to make its four-day workweek a permanent fixture -- something its employees will no doubt come to celebrate.

Of course, requiring employees to report to the office only four days a week doesn't work for all businesses. But if yours can make it work, there's a host of benefits to be gained.

Why try a four-day workweek?

Americans aren't strangers to hard work, with 40% of U.S. employees clocking in more than 50 hours a week on a regular basis. But being perpetually chained to a desk can quickly contribute to employee burnout, and when that happens, productivity suffers. Not only that, but research from Stanford University tells us that once employees work more than 50 hours in a given week, their productivity takes a notable dip, regardless of whether they're happy on the job or not. It therefore stands to reason that easing up on the attendance requirement might result in better output, as Perpetual Guardian found.

Remember, the more hours employees are forced to work, the more time they're likely to waste. According to data from OfficeTeam, the average office worker spends about five hours a week doing non-work activities on his or her phone, from answering personal emails to shopping online. By compressing the workweek into four days, you may come to find that employees are less likely to slack off or engage in non-work activities, and instead focus on tackling key tasks.

And then there's your employees' outlook to take into account. When workers feel they're being treated with respect, they tend to reward their employers in the form of harder work and more flexibility on their part. For example, if your company tends to experience after-hour emergencies, your staff members will be more likely to jump in and help on those occasions if they feel they're being well taken care of.

Implementing a four-day workweek also might result in better employee retention. And as we all know, it takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money to replace workers who leave.

Is a four-day workweek suitable for everyone? Absolutely not. But if you think it might work at your company, you have little to lose by giving it a try.

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