Leadership Development

A counter intuitive approach to productivity.

At the moment, we are enjoying the benefits of our yearly spell of long weekends and four-day weeks. It’s a treat, and a novelty, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it makes a real difference to the usual trend of cramming all the important ‘personal life’ stuff into just two days… well, one and a half really based on the fact we’ve all got our heads back in the work game by Sunday afternoon.

But what if this extended period of personal time could become a reality without impacting our income and actually increasing our productivity at work?

Between 2015 and 2019 a trial took place in Iceland where employees reduced their working hours to a four-day week whilst maintaining a full salary.The 100:80:100 model (100% of the pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for 100% productivity) trial was reported to be an overwhelming success and although at the time only included 1% of the Icelandic working population, it has now spread to 86% having the right to, or actively taking advantage of the opportunity

Read about the trial

There are some obvious benefits of a four-day week to the employee, but why should an employer take such a counter intuitive stance – surely if a workforce drops a day then productivity will plummet because people aren’t at their desks or attending work?!

So, what are the four-day week benefits to an organisation?

Well, firstly, it's the future of work and if we’re not offering innovative ways of working, we will not attract or retain talent, and that is a big issue.

During the pandemic the world got a little smaller for us all and by being forced to change the way we work our eyes were opened to a new world of flexible, remote and hybrid models of working. This exposure (or baptism of fire) dragged a lot of us Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers kicking and screaming into a world of working we didn’t know even existed.

The change in awareness and the rising pool of talent, primarily constructed from the tail end of the confident, open-minded, intuitive and ambitious millennials and the front end of the tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, diverse and progressive ‘Zoomers’ (or Gen Z) has underpinned a change of needs and as employees look to progress their careers. There is as much weighting on what a company can offer to enhance the quality of personal life as there is on wage, values and role.

The 100:80:100 model means 100% of the pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for 100% productivity

Alongside attracting talent and staff retention, here are five big hitters that the organisation could benefit from by offering a four-day week:

1. Increased productivity.

Here’s the counter intuitive bit. By working fewer ‘office hours’ people are more productive. Microsoft Japan gave their 2,300 employees 5 consecutive Fridays off in a row and logged a whopping 40% increase in productivity! One study of 1,898 employees even suggested that we are only actually productive for 2 hours and 23 minutes in a working day, which is shocking until you have a read through the list of distractions – which are you guilty of??

2. Employee engagement.

With the extra day to spend on personal matters, the four day week can lead to happier, less stressed and more engaged employees who feel valued. Imagine that! Your workforce turns up to work even more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to own the day. With a new, more healthy way of working studies have also seen a reduction in illness, absenteeism and presentism of employees.

3. Teamworking.

Andrew Barnes, CEO or Perpetual Guardian took his company through a trial and along with a 24% increase in employees work-life balance they saw a 20% increase in team engagement – people literally started getting along better and collaborating more effectively

4. Psychological safety.

With higher levels of employee engagement, reduced levels of stress and better team working we naturally create an environment where everyone feels safer and the levels of trust increase accordingly. In Dr Stephen Covey’s book ‘The Speed of Trust’, he references a Watson Wyatt study where organisations with high trust outperform organisations with low trust to a tune of 286% in total return to shareholders.

5. Reduced carbon footprint.

Along with the expected travel people make to work, there are the added benefits of a reduction in the use of printing and paper and lighting and heating, which all contributes to a business’s carbon footprint. In fact, research published by Platform London stated that if the UK economy switched to a four day week with full pay it would reduce the UK’s carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year…. and to make that figure real it’s like taking 127 million cars off the road!!

Countries such as Belgium, Scotland, Spain, Japan, Iceland and The United Arab Emirates are now all trialling the four day working week to reap the rewards mentioned above.

So what's the hold up.

Money

Employers are worried about losing out on hours worked. But with people working fewer hours overall, they could actually see a decrease in costs. It's just a matter of time before the four day week becomes standard practice – so get ready for the change!

Familiarity

We’re hard-wired for familiarity and change doesn’t come easy, even if it is a beneficial one. To move towards this revolutionary way of working we need our leaders to be brave and role model the four-day working week behaviours.

Evidence

We are inherently risk-averse and fear loss. When approaching something new and ‘risky’ we need to gather the evidence and facts to limit the impact. There’s a rising body of information being collected on the benefits of the four day week, so do some research of your own.

Watch this space.

At Unify we’re a people-first business. This means in each decision we make we prioritise the human element above other factors. Offering our team a four-day week for a full salary was a given – whether you spend the extra day learning, washing clothes, exercising, decorating the house or sleeping, everyone on our team is encouraged to enjoy their personal time and hobbies, which in turn helps grease the wheels of happiness and fulfilment!

Trials of the four day week are taking place across the globe, so if you’re not convinced yet keep your eye on a pilot scheme run by the 4 Day Week campaign think tank researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College. They’ll be measuring whether employees can operate at 100% productivity for 80% of the time with 30 organisations that have signed up for the four-day week trial.

get in touch
James Hampton (He/Him)

James Hampton (He/Him)

Director

Our areas of specialism.


Coaching.

  • Self-awareness

  • Resilience

  • Personal Development

  • Change

  • Decision making

  • Growth mindset

Learn more

Team development.

  • Hybrid team working

  • Communication

  • Meetings

  • Feedback

  • Collaboration

  • Trust

Learn more

Leadership development.

  • Leadership styles

  • Psychological safety

  • Leading change

  • Mission, vision, values

  • Culture

  • Mentoring

Learn more