How productive is a 4-day working week?

Two Australia firms tout benefits – while highlighting the changes that have to be made

How productive is a 4-day working week?

“It has resulted in a greater work-life balance, productivity has increased by 20%, and there is a noticeable improvement in happiness in the workplace, as well as a sharper mindset.”

So says Ryan Watson, CEO of Tribeca Financial, which has been doing a four-day week for almost 18 months.

“Employees are more likely to embrace a growth mindset and therefore want to learn and grow at a faster rate, thereby helping their development and the growth of the business.”

The most apparent change is in the mindset of the employee, he says, and the belief that the work can be done.

“Once this has been achieved, the work can absolutely be completed in a condensed work week. Our experience is that people can 'lose' a lot of time in a workday. A four-day work week can help a lot with focus and task completion.”

For employers, a shortened work week can reduce the risk of staff burnout, as well as offering a unique value proposition for hiring and retaining talent, according to Lauren Crystal, managing director of design firm Your Creative and co-founder of project productivity tool Hassl.

“It also makes you more focused on productivity and timelines.”

A large pilot program around a four-day workweek is proving a success, according to a recent report.

What works best?

In terms of the structure, Tribeca Financial has found that giving employees Wednesdays off works best, says Watson.

“It improves productivity. Whilst logically a three-day weekend might make more sense, a two-day and two-day work week works best for our ‘tribe,’” he says. 

“We believe our employees are thinking more effectively. We are seeing an improvement in problem solving and the way employees complete their role.”

Your Creative needs to be available for both creating for and communicating with clients five days a week, so in looking at several roster options, it decided on having half the team off on Wednesdays and the other half off on Friday.

“When this transition is effectively implemented, teams and individuals have found new ways to reduce red tape and previous inefficiencies leading to no reduction in productivity,” says Crystal.

“The business runs much healthier in terms of workflow and productivity, and that makes up for the reduction in resource/hours of work.”

The Australian Nurse and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) recently submitted a federal parliamentary inquiry, proposing a decrease in the full-time weekly work from 38 hours to 32 hours, or four days instead of the usual five.

What needs to change

However, in trialling the four-day working week in Australia and New Zealand, Your Creative has had to work through some issues, says Crystal.

“Project deadlines need to be extended in order to allow for less days and sick days, particularly [when] waves of COVID can lead to staff shortages on rostered days off,” she says.

“Leave can be difficult to manage and public holidays create very short weeks with minimal staff, especially for Melbourne.”

Read more: Public holidays in Australia

In addition, employees have to be more organised and work collaboratively to ensure projects remain on track, says Crystal.

“Staff have to be more decisive, more accomplished and it has enabled families with children to go back to work and also save on childcare costs at the same time.”

In order to change your business from a five-day working week to four days, there needs to be careful strategic planning, as well as workflows of projects organised in great detail.

“We spent two months looking at options for structure, being mentored through the four-day work week trial,” she says. “Options for structure are entirely dependent on the business.”

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