Companies who have cut their working week by a day have found that it resulted it higher productivity and more motivated employees.
Founder of Berlin-based project management software company Planio, Jan Schulz-Hofen, introduced the four-day week to his staff earlier this year and said it is much healthier now they don’t work ‘crazy hours’.
An insurance company in New Zealand, Perpetual Guardian, also reported a fall in stress and a rise in staff engagement after it tested a 32-hour week.
Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) is pushing for the country to move to a four-day week by the end of the century, a drive supported by the Labour party.
Companies who have cut their working week by a day have found that it resulted it higher productivity and more motivated employees
The TUC argues that a shorter week is a way for workers to share in the wealth generated by new technologies like machine learning and robotics, just as they won the right to the weekend off during the industrial revolution.
TUC economic head Kate Bell said: ‘It would reduce the stress of juggling working and family life and could improve gender equality. Companies that have already tried it say it’s better for productivity and staff well-being.’
Even in Japan, the government is encouraging companies to allow Monday mornings off, although other schemes in the workaholic country to persuade employees to take it easy have had little effect.
Lucie Greene, trends expert at consultancy J. Walter Thompson, said there was a growing backlash against overwork, underlined by a wave of criticism after Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted that ‘nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.’
She added: ‘People are starting to take a step back from the 24-hour digital life we have now and realize the mental health issues from being constantly connected to work.’
A recent survey of 3,000 employees in eight countries including the United States, Britain and Germany found that nearly half thought they could easily finish their tasks in five hours a day if they did not have interruptions.
Founder of Berlin-based project management software company Planio, Jan Schulz-Hofen (pictured), introduced the four-day week to his staff earlier this year
But many are exceeding 40 hours a week anyway – with the United States leading the way, where 49 percent said they worked overtime.
‘There has been work creep. Because you always have the technology, you are always working, so people are getting burned out,’ said Dan Schawbel, director of executive development firm Future Workplace, which conducted the survey.
Schulz-Hofen, a 36-year-old software engineer, tested the four-day week on himself after realising he needed to slow down following a decade of intense work launching Planio, whose tools allowed him to track his time in detail.
‘I didn’t get less work done in four days than in five because in five days, you think you have more time, you take longer, you allow yourself to have more interruptions, you have your coffee a bit longer or chat with colleagues,’ Schulz-Hofen said.
‘I realized with four days, I have to be quick, I have to be focused if I want to have my free Friday.’
Schulz-Hofen and his team discussed various options before settling on everybody working Monday to Thursday. They rejected the idea of flexible hours because it adds administrative complexity, and were against a five-day week with shorter hours as it is too easy for overwork to creep back in.
Clients who call on a Friday hear a recorded message explaining why nobody is at the office.
‘We got an unexpected reaction from customers. Most of our clients did not complain. They were just jealous,’ Schulz-Hofen said.
Grey New York, an ad agency owned by WPP, launched a program in April to allow staff to work a four-day week for 85 percent of their full-time salary.
Schawbel expects the idea to catch on in more companies and countries, but probably not his own: ‘I think America will be the last country to give us Monday mornings off because we’re so used to this way of working.’