Imagine It – A 4 Day Work Week – Every Week!

blog May 05, 2021

Don’t you just love those weeks where you have a Public Holiday (especially on either the Monday or the Friday), but any day, and you only need to run your operations, lead your team and be present in your business for 4 days of the week? As a bonus, how much do your team love those weeks?


Interestingly, I’m going to ask you to reflect on something – how much less productivity happens in those weeks? Does 80% of the work get done, or is it much closer to 100% productivity squeezed into less time? I am willing to guess that the vast majority of you are going to say closer to 100%.


Isn’t that interesting … 80% of the time ‘at work’, 100% of the tasks and objectives achieved.


So, should you make all of your team part time, as they’re obviously dilly dallying for around 7-8 hours per week right? The short answer I am going to give you is no, I don’t think you should cut their hours along with their salary and make them part time.


However, I do want to invite you to consider a rather radical concept and that is this. Continue to pay your staff their normal full time salary, but only require them to be at work, working, for 80% of the time (provided they are meeting their productivity targets).


Now I know many of you may think this is outlandish, ludicrous, yet another bonus to employees and destined to fail, but those who have tried this tell us that their experience is the complete opposite. They tell us that in their experience creating this ‘4 day week’ delivered increased productivity, I’m talking more productive than when they were working 5 days, improved profitability, reduced absenteeism, higher employee engagement and lower staff turnover.


Sound as realistic as a mystical unicorn riding a rainbow towards a leprechaun waiting with a pot of gold?


Let me share with you some stories that might just change your mind.


In 2018, Andrew Barnes was part of the Executive Team with Perpetual Guardian, a NZ based firm employing around 250 staff. He was researching and analysing productivity rates, and identifying the vast amount of ‘wasted’ non productive time that employees spend at work. He had heard about and looked into this 4 day week concept, and went ahead and put in place a trial within the business to see if in fact they could improve productivity.


They went to the staff and here’s an idea we want to try, and asked the staff to tell them how they could work differently to make this a reality, and how they thought they could be measured.


They used a 100 / 80 / 100 rule – you get paid 100% of your salary, you work 80% of the time, and you need to achieve 100% of the productivity targets. Simple. Achieve the results in less time, work less hours and get paid the same.


Employees had the choice of whether to opt in or not, the majority did, and here’s what they saw:

  • Productivity increased (in some areas even skyrocketed);
  • The business was more profitable;
  • Their engagement surveys showed marked increases in employee engagement to the tune of 40% improvement;
  • Job satisfaction went up (meaning staff turnover went down);
  • Sick leave dropped by a staggering 50%;
  • Employees reported stress levels dropping by 15%;
  • They were able to attract the best applicants in the market because they were a sought-after place to work.


How do you like those results? I know I’d take them any day of the week!


This is a fairly flexible and dynamic approach, and you might be thinking that there is no way you could implement this in your business.


Well, here’s another way. Melbourne based digital agency Versa introduced a 4 day work week as an initiative to improve employee mental health, reduce burnout and reduce staff turnover. In their case, they maintained their full time hours, but consolidated these into 4 slightly longer days. Universally across their business all staff have the same ‘day off’ from any deliverables, meetings or requirements to check emails and attend to work. As a mental health initiative this definitely delivered for the business, but the side benefits that they never predicted included massive profit improvements, sick leave reduced significantly, and productivity not only maintained but in fact improved.


As you can see through these 2 examples, there are different ways to approach this shift, but the benefits of re thinking our working patterns are undeniable.


Of course for this to work successfully you must be able to measure productivity super effectively within your business, you must have a culture built on trust within the team and between management and the team, and you need to think laterally in ways you may never have before.


No matter your industry or business size, I really do encourage you to take some time to reimagine what’s possible when it comes to recreating your work week.


An invitation:

If you’d like to connect with other business owners, leaders and managers in a group focused on all things HR, people and team management we’d love for you to join us over on our free Facebook Group – HR Support for Australian Businesses.


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