Three in four full-time employees (78%) say they could do their job in under seven hours each day if they could work uninterrupted, study shows
It turns out working less is more.
A four-day work week will be the new standard at a company in New Zealand after a test run was so successful managers found “no downside” to the shorter office hours.
The trial at Auckland-based company Perpetual Guardian – a financial services firm that manages trusts, wills and estates – involved almost 250 employees across 16 offices earlier this year. They each worked four days for a total of 32 hours at the office — instead of a 40 hour work week — and were paid for five days. Researchers from the Auckland University of Technology monitored the effects and found that while their actual performance at work didn’t change, staffers benefited from the work-life balance and were less stressed due to the extra day off.
Now, employees will be allowed to work just four days with the option to come into the office for five if they need to, the company announced.
“For us, this is about our company getting improved productivity from greater workplace efficiencies… there’s no downside for us,’ company founder Andrew Barnes told Metro. “The right attitude is a requirement to make it work – everyone has to be committed and take it seriously for us to create a viable long-term model for our business.”
Barnes noted that by the end of the six-week trial, employees showed a 24% improvement in their work-life balance, and a 7% decrease in their stress levels. Team engagement also increased by 20% on average. And researchers said a shorter work week motivated employees to find ways of increasing their productivity while in the office, like cutting meetings down to 30 minutes, and telling colleagues when they were being a distraction.
Workers believe they can get their work done in less time tool. Three in four full-time employees (78%) say they could do their job in under seven hours each day if they could work uninterrupted, and almost half (45%) think they could wrap things up in just five hours or less, according to a global survey of nearly 3,000 employees across eight nations that the Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated released in August.
The study entitled “The Case for a 4-Day Workweek?” asked workers across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S. where they think they are wasting time every day. Nearly nine out of 10 employees (86%) say they lose the most time on work-specific tasks unrelated to their core job, with “fixing a problem not caused by me” slowing down 22% of them, administrative work tying up 17%, and meetings (12%), email (11%) and customer issues (11%) rounding out the top five time-suckers. Baby Boomers say they waste the most time fixing other people’s mistakes (26%); Gen Xers get caught in too many meetings (13%); millennials lose the most time on social media (10%) and Gen Zers are the most likely to waste time resolving workplace conflicts (9%).
There’s been some buzz about switching from the standard five-day work week to just four days before, especially for working parents who could use the extra day to care for their kids. Deloitte and KPMG have offered four-day workweeks with flexible hours, although workers are still responsible for putting in their full 40 hours over those few days. Treehouse, a technology education company, boasted a four-day, 32-hour work week from 2006 to 2016. Workers had to start coming back to work on Fridays, however, after layoffs limited their workforce.
The average American worked 38.6 hours a week last year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The most recent Gallup data puts the mean number at 44.5 hours a week, however, with 29% of U.S. employees reporting that they put in 45 to 59 hours, and 16% working 60-plus hours a week. A five-day work schedule is the standard — except now that workers are accessible 24/7 over emails and smartphones, more than half of employees say they still work during their unpaid personal time, according to a 2015 RAND survey, including nights, weekends and vacations. No wonder burnout rates are 40% to 50% across most U.S. fields, according to Business Insider.
The OECD has found that productivity is highest when people work fewer hours, and worker output actually drops once people clock in more than 48 hours per week. The CDC also linkedputting in overtime with increased rates of illness, injury and death, not to mention weight gain and more alcohol use and smoking.
This article was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated with new data.
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