Can workers be more productive in less time? Consider the four-day work week.
Whether it is to attract younger workers, help employees achieve work/life balance or simply to attract talent in a tight job market, more and more companies are moving to a four-day work week. It’s a perk that seems to be growing in appeal for companies large and small.
Good enough for Bill Gates
In August 2019, Microsoft in Japan conducted a trial four-day work week. They then compared productivity during the same period the previous year, and they found, despite working fewer hours, employees’ productivity increased by 40%.
To make it work, managers recommended spending less time on emails and limiting meetings to 30 minutes. Added bonus, the company saved on utilities due to the shortened work week. Other companies that have moved to a shorter week have implemented meeting-less days and provided clear objectives to ensure productivity doesn’t slip.
Sixty years and counting
The idea of a four-day work week was even floated by Richard Nixon in 1956 when he was vice president. So why hasn’t it become a reality for more Americans? The idea of working five days has pretty strong roots in our culture, especially after Henry Ford popularized it in his auto factories.
Despite a mid-century belief that people would gradually work fewer and fewer hours, the average work week stabilized at five days, 40 hours during World War II and hasn’t really shifted since. Many employers don’t have faith in their employees delivering the necessary output in a shorter period. They also don’t understand all the benefits a shorter week offers or believe employees are interested.
But there is still hope. A 2018 survey conducted by Kronos found that 34% of global workers were interested in a four-day work week. The same study found that 45% of full-time employees believed they could do their job in five hours or less each day if they were allowed to work uninterrupted.
The interest is there. Millennials and Generation Z have different work priorities that may push this idea even further, as Boomers age out of the workforce in the next decades.