The majority of us in the corporate world have become more familiar with remote and hybrid work since the beginning of COVID-19 two years ago. Fast-forward to now, as measures are eased in most of the world, many companies have eagerly adopted a hybrid work structure, where employees can shift between working from home and going to the office.
The pandemic has made it clear that finding a balance between work and life is realistic. More organizations have begun experimenting with flexible working schedules, such as the 4-day work week, which shortens the standard work week from 40 to 32 hours while maintaining the same pay and benefits.
Although working for just four days a week might sound unattainable, many companies across the world have already successfully implemented this, and supporting case studies credit a shorter work week with improved employee well-being and productivity.
With that in mind, we were inspired to explore the 4-day work week and assess how it might benefit productivity and work output in a three-month experiment. Some team members were doubtful, citing that having only four days of work would give them less time to complete tasks, among other concerns.
On the other hand, more time does not necessarily equate to more productivity – and we’ve got plenty of proof, considering that Mäd has had flexible and remote work options and flex-time four years ahead of the pandemic.
But here’s what we know about the 4-day work week, and why we thought it would be a great idea to test it out in practice.
According to the 4 Day Week Global Foundation (which was founded to support workplaces trying out a 4-day work week), adopting this structure is a business improvement strategy that helps to enhance employee productivity, wellbeing, engagement, recruitment, sustainability, gender equality, and innovation within companies.
There are different ways to implement a 4-day work week in your company. One involves standardizing the working schedule across the whole company. Another option is worker-based and more flexible: employees can choose which four days of the week to work and align their schedules with colleagues to meet requirements and deadlines.
Some workplaces split their teams to allow for full five-day coverage: one team works Monday to Thursday, and the other is on standby Tuesday to Friday. This works best for larger companies that can divide their staff into multiple groups.
Case studies of the 4-day work week have demonstrated surprising results, and the numbers don’t lie. The original trial held in New Zealand and monitored by The University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology found that employee engagement levels increased by up to 40 percent, while work-life balance metrics rose by over 40 percent. They also saw other significant improvements in statistics for empowerment, leadership, work stimulation, and organizational commitment.
Some companies, such as Ylaw – a family law firm – have shown increases in company profits from 10 percent in the first month of working four days a week to a whopping 30 percent after three months of following their new schedule.
Overall, trials held all over the world – from Microsoft in Japan to countrywide implementation in Iceland – have shown maintained or increased levels of productivity and consistent improvements in employees’ work-life balance after shifting to a 4-day work week.
After such positive trials, it’s no surprise that employees and companies were enthusiastic about sustaining this structure long-term. For instance, at tech firm Bolt, almost all employees wanted the 4-day work week to become permanent. Fortunately, they were supported by 87 percent of managers, who shared that their teams continued to maintain productivity and efficiently serve clients.
At Mäd, we value creative and dedicated work at the office, but we also want to enable everyone to have a sane work-life balance. As a company, we like to think about our long-term goals – and this involves maintaining a team of happy and productive individuals. Creating an inviting and flexible environment enables us to support (and be supported by) our team members.
Our thought process is backed by research indicating that overworked teams are generally less productive than teams working regular or reduced hours. Just because employees are logging in long hours at work doesn’t necessarily mean they’re working the entire time efficiently. Hence, the 4 Day Week Global Foundation suggests a 100-80-100 model – “100% of the pay, 80% of the time, but critically in exchange for 100% of the productivity.”
To prepare for this experiment, we have been brainstorming ways to shift how work time can be optimized – for instance, spending fewer hours in meetings and reducing distractions to ensure more time on deep work.
When people feel more in control of their time, they tend to handle their responsibilities better. In addition, when they have time to take care of personal matters outside of the workplace, they are more able to focus at work – a win for both employers and staff.
As we begin adopting our new work structure, we’re faced with the dilemma of working fewer people for a full five days a week with harder to reach targets versus working more people with more achievable targets and more happiness, but for only four days.
We mention more people in the latter option because we believe our team members would request less time off and sick days if they already get an additional day off. This means more people would be working simultaneously at any given time. Plus, offering an attractive working scheme can help gain and retain top talent, increasing company success in the long run.
Finally, switching to a 4-day work week ensures that our team members stay in control of both their physical and emotional wellbeing. Having an extra day to recharge means that they feel more refreshed and energetic when they are back to work, ready to tackle the week.
The 4-day work week may not be suitable for all organizations – you’ll have to test different strategies to find what works best. The purpose of our experiment is to see how switching to a 4-day work week would positively impact both our team and the quality of our work.
Only time will tell, but here are some things we considered before making the change.
From remote work to hybrid work, the pandemic has no doubt changed the way we work. These “new normal” working schemes are becoming increasingly popular as companies seek to find better ways to support employees’ well-being and productivity whilst maximizing value for customers and clients.
Some benefits of the 4-day work week include enhanced efficiency in business operations, a more motivated and refreshed workforce, and all-around improvements in employee health and happiness.
To explore the 4-day work week, companies can try running a short-term trial to determine the impact on their business. Consider how you would modify your workflow, time management, and expectations, and continue making adjustments that are customized to your company.
At Mäd, we’ve always looked to work smarter for our clients and invest in the well-being of our team. With our trial firmly underway, we’re looking forward to discovering more about the potential challenges and advantages that the 4-day work week will bring.