Everyone knows the dangers of overwork – stress, mental ill health, obesity, heart attack, a sleep deficit that carries its own associated health risks, to name a few – but often it's unavoidable. Tech has led to an 'always on' work culture and many companies still value being physically present at the office ahead of productivity.
As a full-time employee, it's still generally expected that you'll work from nine to five, Monday to Friday, despite a growing awareness that this isn't actually the most productive setup for everyone. But one New Zealand company is bucking the trend and championing the benefits of working just four days a week.
Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts and wills, trialled a four-day work week among 240 staff over March and April and the overwhelmingly positive results suggest it's something that companies the world over should be considering.
Employees were told to work reduced hours – four eight-hour days instead of the usual five – for the same pay, as part of a company drive towards better work-life balance. On their extra day off they were encouraged to manage their personal lives and home commitments.
Researchers who studied the trial before, during and after it was implemented concluded it to have been an overwhelming success, and the company is now considering making it a permanent setup.
Seventy-eight percent of employees felt they were able to successfully balance work and life – 24% more than said the same while working five days a week. There was a 7% drop in reported stress levels (from 45% to 38% post-trial), a 5% increase in life satisfaction and no drop in productivity, despite the reduced working hours.
The company's chief executive Andrew Barnes told the New Zealand Herald there was a "massive increase in engagement and staff satisfaction about the work they do," and "a massive increase in staff intention to continue to work with the company."
New Zealand isn't the only country that has made moves against overwork. Last year the French government introduced legislation giving workers “the right to disconnect” from emails out of working hours, while Swedish companies have trialled 6-hour work days to great success. Let's hope British companies are taking notes.
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