Today more than ever, employee happiness is critical--and at the same time, the long workweek can really take a toll. There's a ton of science that supports how long we should work every week, or when we need to stop working, rather. So, what's the middle ground in striking a work-life balance that strives to retain the happiness of valuable employees?

How does a 32-hour workweek sound?

New Zealand-based estate management firm Perpetual Guardian just wrapped up an interesting experiment in which they paid employees the same amount for working one less day per week. The results? They were so good that the firm is now considering making the change permanent--and that sends ripples to workers, globally.

Here were some of the experiment's results:

  • A 24% increase in home-work balance
  • Employees returned to work more energized 
  • The staff was reported to be more creative
  • Attendance was better
  • Employees were punctual
  • Employees did not leave early or take breaks

Jarrod Haar, a human resources professor at Auckland University of Technology, added,

"Their actual job performance didn't change when doing it over four days instead of five."

What's intriguing about this isn't the thought of working less for the same paycheck. In fact, if we're to believe Perpetual Guardian's results or the results from a similar trial in Sweden, employees might actually be working more under this model, or at least more efficiently.

The intrigue comes from the idea that "that's just the way things are" doesn't cut it anymore. 

Of course, we've been headed down this route for a while, with companies introducing wellness zones, green offices (no, literally), positive company culture, and more, all in an attempt to boost productivity. The four-day workweek, however, might actually work--unlike, say, hot-desking.

Huge upside

A move like this isn't guaranteed to pay off. Even if Perpetual Guardian opts not to stick with the reduced workweek, though, they're still coming out on top. In addition to a boatload of positive media attention, the company has sent an undeniably clear message to its employees: We're interested in you and we care about your well-being.

Yes, it's still all about the bottom line and nobody's suggesting otherwise. But caring about the bottom line means caring about the people delivering it, and it's mind-boggling how many companies out there still don't understand that.

I'll tell you this, if I was on the job hunt, for all the amazing company "perks" from the Googles and Facebooks of the world, a four-day workweek stands out as the most appealing to me.

So, what's the real takeaway?

Results like these may or may not be able to be replicated by any given organization since too many factors are at play. The lesson here for other business owners and entrepreneurs is that more and more companies are willing to take big risks in pursuit of employee well-being, hoping to improve their business as a whole in the process. And if companies are even remotely interested in experimenting, consider allowing a dedicated "work from home day" and monitor the results.

Creatively invest in your employees and, in return, they will better invest themselves in you.

It might not be inappropriate to use the phrase, "The times, they are a-changin'," and we all need to be better prepared to change with them.

Published on: Jul 20, 2018
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