I read between fifty and a hundred articles each week, every week of the year.
I am a voracious consumer of content on recruitment, employment, productivity, high performance and leadership. It takes a something pretty special to impact me significantly.
A year ago, this week, I read such an article. It struck me right between the eyes. It was this Business Insider article about a New Zealand company; Perpetual Guardian, who had trialled a four day week for no reduction in pay, across two months earlier in the year.
Perpetual Guardian‘s Managing Director, Andrew Barnes, was inspired to trial the four day week after reading an article in The Economist about how few productive hours were worked by the average employee in the UK.
As Barnes recounts in his recent TEDxAuckland talk the results of the two month trial (supervised by University of Auckland researchers to calibrate results) generated some unexpected results.
The headline result was that overall weekly productivity slightly improved, which in relative terms meant that productivity per employee per hour worked increased by just over 20 per cent.
Other benefits of the Perpetual Guardian trial were:
- Engagement measures improved by more than 30 per cent.
- Better teamwork
- Greater staff empowerment
- Reduction in stress and improvement in mental health
- A big drop in personal social media use at work
Although it wasn’t specifically mentioned I would guarantee that the option of a four day week (productivity targets need to be met to qualify) ensured Perpetual Guardian will attract many more quality candidates (especially women) than normal, for any vacancy.
As Barnes recounts in his TEDx talk, the Perpetual Guardian trial generated massive media coverage across the globe, even though many other companies (especially in Denmark and Sweden) have had similar arrangements in place for many years. I suspect Perpetual Guardian’s trial arrived at an opportune time for maximum media exposure due to the issues of worker engagement, productivity, mental health and retention having all been hot topics over the past couple of years.
Since last July, when the story broke, I have eagerly read other case studies of four-days-work-for-five-days’-pay.
Australian digital marketing agency, Versa, introduced a no-work Wednesday in mid-2019 with the major difference, compared to Perpetual Guardian, was that Versa employees were expected to clock up their normal 37.5 hours across four days, rather than five.
Versa founder and CEO, Kath Blackham, reported that what started as a one month trial, continued for three months, then six months and has now been in operation over a year and has delivered incredible results; revenue up by 50%, profits have tripled and the quantity and quality of job applicants have both increased markedly.
In the recruitment sector I was alerted to an example via an excellent Q&A conducted by BrandMeBetter founder, David Wolstenholme with David Stone, founder of technology recruiters, MRL Consulting in the UK.
MRL Consulting is now into the third months of a six month trial of a Monday to Thursday work week and, as Stone reports, the results have been positive so far.
It’s clear that this trend is not being led by the younger leaders in younger companies.
ICE Group Director Margaret Cox was quoted in the Galway Advertiser “With a team slogan for this project; four-day work, 100 per cent customer, the buy-in is 100 per cent.”
Four months ago Melbourne recruiter Rusher Rogers introduced a four day week for five day’s pay for each permanent employee of their small team. Owners Susie and Steve Rogers, in a bid to improve their chances of attracting experienced recruiters looking to have meaningful work/life balance, decided to trial each person in the team having a regular weekly nominated day off work in order to keep the office open for five days each week.
When I caught up with Steve Rogers earlier this month he reported that the quarterly revenue had remained consistent and there had been no drop off in customer service, with all team members empowered to take responsibility for their absent colleague’s work. Rogers has recruited one experienced senior staff member since March and is optimistic that the four day week for five days pay will help attract others of a similar calibre.
From all available evidence the early adopters are winning with the fully paid long weekend, every weekend business model. It appears that employees are very keen to make the concept work which is entirely understandable when your (non-sick leave) working days off each year jump by 260 per cent from 20 days to 72 days.
In the race to hire and retain the best staff, I predict the smartest and boldest employers will be jumping on this bandwagon sooner rather than later.
Watch this space.