The workplace as you know it is disappearing. Now that the Baby Boomers who have dominated the corporate landscape for decades are retiring, younger people are taking over, and they have plenty of new ideas to implement.
Then came the pandemic, which forced companies to allow their employees to work from home. Many now want to continue working remotely even after they have received immunization against COVID-19.
Recently, a new study that examined the impact of a reduced workweek found “overwhelming success.”
The Four-day Workweek Study
The study was conducted in Iceland and involved more than 2,500 workers — of about only 1 percent of the entire nation’s population — across different fields, including schools, offices, social service providers, and hospitals. The national government and the Reykjavik City Council oversaw the study that ran between 2015 and 2019.
During the study, workers were paid the same amount of money. However, they only worked four days a week.
The researchers revealed that the experiment saw productivity among workers remain the same or even improved despite the shorter workweek. Workers also reported experiencing lower levels of stress and were less at risk of burnout.
Moreover, they improved their work-life balance. The workers used the additional free time to bond with their families, pursue a hobby, or, simply, do their chores.
Now, more Icelandic adults are renegotiating their work arrangements. About 86 percent of the workforce has either moved to a shorter workweek or is in the process of moving from a 40 to 35-hour workweek.
More similar studies are underway around the world. Unilever New Zealand has given staff the option to decrease their hours by 20 percent without reducing their pay as part of the trial. Spain has also piloted a four-day workweek as part of the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19. In the United States, the Kickstarter headquarters in New York City is set to test a four-day workweek.
Why a Shorter Workweek Works
The biggest benefit of a shorter workweek is sustained or even improved productivity. Employers worry that giving their staff an extra day off every week will mean less work will be done. However, the study proved that this is not the case.
People who work at an office five days a week are not always efficient. Throughout their everyday lives, they spend a considerable amount of time doing other things such as going in and out of meetings, attending work-related social events, checking their email, and performing mundane tasks. By removing these distractions, workers can focus on their roles and do their work faster. Some companies that have adopted the four-day workweek use machines to perform administrative work, freeing the staff to do more important tasks. Many companies have also reduced the number of meetings.
For many companies, the 35-hour week was enough to do all the work they need to accomplish. Conducting a time study analysis can help companies assess whether their staff will benefit from a shorter workweek.
One research claims that an average American worker is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes each day. The rest of the eight-hour shift is spent on reading the news (1 hour and 5 minutes), social media browsing (44 minutes), talking about non-work-related subjects (40 minutes), and searching for a new job (26 minutes).
Workers are also interrupted every 3 minutes on average when in the office. It will take them about 23 minutes to return to work.
Transitioning to a Shorter Workweek
The shift will not be as easy as telling everyone not to come on Friday. There needs to be preparation for it.
The company has to re-evaluate all processes, eliminate practices that are non-essentials, and develop a tighter and more structured working day. Employers should minimize distractions in a shorter workweek as much as possible and allow workers to concentrate on their tasks. Because there is less time to accomplish their work, workers need to use their time on their tasks, not on pointless meetings or chatter.
Companies should also conduct their own trials. Not everyone is suited for a shorter workweek. Many do tests to first figure out a schedule that everyone prefers and boost the entire organization’s output. Factors such as vacation and sick leaves need to be considered.
A shorter workweek benefits everyone, according to studies. It is a new and trendy concept, but it deserves to be considered by employers for its potential to boost productivity, save on overhead costs, and enable employees to have a healthy work-life balance.