August 15, 2018
A first-of-its-kind, four-day work week experiment at trusts firm Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand went so well the company actually wants to make the changes permanent. Over March and April, the company gave each of its 240 employees one day each week at full pay in order to see how the change impacted the business. Independent surveys indicated staff stress levels during the trial went down from 45 percent to 38 percent, while work-life balance improved from 54 percent to 78 percent.
In this trial, employees perceived their employer as caring more about their wellbeing and safety. Both are important for employee satisfaction and retention.
Employees increasingly work in teams that are often cross-functional. Changing to a 4-day work week increased the perceived strength of the team on important dimensions like resilience, confidence and optimism. It also increased team cohesiveness and the perception that they were creative and helpful.
The study also found that employees perceived improvement in their work-life balance. This coincides with information around social exchange theory, which suggests that employees are willing to work harder in exchange for better treatment.
Job satisfaction, one of the strongest predictors of job performance, also improved as did the self-reported desire to stay with the company.
And while these findings are compelling and intriguing, they reflect the results of one trial, which makes it risky to draw firm conclusions. The trial also collected qualitative data on the challenges the teams faced in the transition, which were not the focus of the quantitative analysis.
The trial only lasted 8 weeks, so long term implications of some of those challenges may not yet have materialized, such as those that come with team members being out sick or questions going unanswered when the individual needed is not available.
Understand that findings like this study are exciting, but merit further study to see if the results can be replicated in other settings.
Consider using this benchmark to evaluate other workplace changes that could provide similar results and may be more easily implemented across diverse workplace settings.
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