Four-day work week.

You can make it happen

If you think you might fancy long weekends year round, then the four-day work week may be just the ticket to a better life.

The question as to whether presenteeism can be a cause of poor productivity in the workforce has become a popular topic of debate. So does spending less time at work mean better outcomes for personal wellbeing and professional output? One New Zealand company that decided to trial the four-day working week wanted to test exactly that.

For two months Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts and wills, invited 240 staff to work four eight hour-long days while still being paid a full-time salary. Following the trial, about 78 per cent of Perpetual employees reported better work-life balance and now the company is refining its process to roll the system out permanently.

Human resource management professor Jarrod Harr from Auckland University of Technology published an analysis of the trial findings. Harr concluded that staff were able to maintain the same level of productivity working four instead of five days with added staff benefits including feeling better about their job, being more engaged, and reporting generally better work-life balance and less stress.

"The results show a 24 per cent increase in employees saying their work-life balance had improved, a significant improvement in engagement, nad a 7 per cent drop in stress levels - all without a reduction in productivity," Harr wrote in The Conversation.

Findings also revealed that employee perceptions of support changed across the trial, showing that if organisations were able to demonstrate are for the wellbeing of its employees, staff will respond with better job attitudes and performance.

According to Forbes, there are some key things to consider before embarking on a four-day work week negotiation.

  1. How will your work get done? Ensure you have prepared your proposal in a way that explains how your assignments will be completed on time and without losing productivity.
  2. Ease into it. Think about starting with a proposition that involves working four days one week each month. If this was a three-month pilot, for example, it would allow you to show your boss you can fulfil productivity needs before coming to a more permanent arrangement.
  3. Be clear on expectations about day five. Make sure you and your manager are on the same page about your "idle weekday". Define the boundaries to your accessibility. For example, how connected or responsive will you be to calls or emails on day five?