The case for a four-day work week just got a lot stronger

What if every weekend was a three-day weekend? Well, there is new evidence that a four-day work week can be a huge benefit for both workers and the company’s bottom line. Numerous studies have shown – and you’ve probably noticed in your own experience – that a great deal of time gets wasted at work.

How easily could you accomplish every task and objective you’re responsible for in a shorter period of time – if you were just allowed to focus on the essentials and get the job done?

Well, four days is more than enough time for most people’s full-time jobs. A recent experiment conducted by Microsoft confirmed this. They tried out a program this August in Japan called the “Work Life Choice Challenge.” They closed their offices every Friday to give staff an extra day off each week.

The thing is – quotas and workloads were not reduced. Employees were still expected to deliver the same amount of work in four days as they would have in five. To help with this, staff were encouraged to limit the number – and the length – of meetings, and use other strategies to improve their productivity.

How did it go? Microsoft measured productivity by comparing sales per employee during the August 2019 trial with the same period the previous year. They report a 40 per cent growth in the average employee sales – even while they all enjoyed three-day weekends. Other benefits the company noted were a 23 per cent reduction in electricity costs and a 59 per cent decline in printed paper. Apparently, fewer meetings come with fewer memos. It’s a win/win.

“Work a shorter time and rest well,” said Takuya Hirano from Microsoft Japan. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20 per cent less working time.”

Just last year, an international study of thousands of workers – including Canadians – found that nearly half (45 per cent) of full-time workers say it should take less than five hours each day to do their job if they worked uninterrupted.

That same research found that 59 per cent of workers in Canada say that they would be in favour of a four-day work week – and could be just as productive in that time. Nearly a third (29 per cent) of Canadian surveyed said that they would even take a 20 per cent pay cut in order to work one less day a week.

They key to success in that study and the Microsoft experiment in Japan was that employees needed fewer distractions and interruptions in order to accomplish their jobs in less time. Microsoft limited the number and length of meetings. What else do workers say takes up valuable time and cuts into their productivity? Here’s what the survey said.

The biggest time wasters at work

  • Administrative tasks unrelated to the job
  • Meetings
  • Email overload
  • Customer issues

Let’s not forget the inevitable drop bys, chit chat, social events, birthday card signings, and cake sing-alongs. It’s a wonder any work at all gets done at work.

Canada is currently experiencing historically low unemployment with many regions and sectors struggling with labour shortage conditions. That could make this an ideal time to negotiate with you boss for a flexible schedule – possibly a four-day work week.

Fast food chains in the United States have already been experimenting with this – as in a tight labour market, that industry in particular had difficulty attracting and retaining staff.

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