The four-day workweek dream became a reality for participants of a pilot program experiment at a New Zealand company — to the benefit of both the employees and their employer.
In the new study, all 240 employees of Perpetual Guardian — a firm that handles trusts, wills and estates in Wellington, New Zealand — worked four days for the same pay as five during the months of March and April, The New York Times reports.
The program was so successful that the company’s board is now considering making the four-day workweek permanent for all employees.
Two researchers hired by Perpetual Guardian found that the shorter workweek increased employee productivity.
One of the researchers, Jarrod Haar, a human resources professor at Auckland University of Technology, told the Times that “supervisors said staff were more creative, their attendance was better, they were on time, and they didn’t leave early or take long breaks.”
“Employees reported a 24 percent improvement in work-life balance, and came back to work energized after their days off,” he added.
Employees were also happy with their lighter schedule and said it “motivated them to find ways of increasing their productivity while in the office.”
Christine Brotherton, the head of people and capability for Perpetual Guardian, said the shorter workweek also motivated employees to make the most of their long weekends.
“People have been thinking quite hard about that third day off and how best to use it so it can change their life. Some people come back to work and are incredibly energized,” Brotherton says. “People have been training for marathons, going to the dentist, getting their car serviced, or doing the shopping for their elderly parents. All the stuff that has been put on the back burner, but either helps themselves or their family. Life administration.”
But she adds that not every employee has figured out how to increase productivity at work.
“Some people haven’t quite realized that if we have three days off, the four at the office have to be very productive, and we need to address that,” Brotherton says.
American companies are also dipping a toe in the shorter workweek trend.
Amazon is reportedly launching a 30-hour work week for some employees — but under that program, employees will take a pay cut, earning only 75 percent of their regular salary.
The accounting firms KPMG and Deloitte also offer four-day work weeks to some employees under certain conditions.
Perpetual Guardian employees will find out in July whether the four-day workweek will be adopted full-time.
For employee Kirsten Taylor, a return to the traditional workweek would not be welcome. Though it took some time to adjust to the program she says she’s now “nervous about when it ends.
“I don’t know anyone who wants to return to the old routine,” she says.