The talk about a four-day workweek has been around for awhile, but lately more and more companies are adopting it and bloggers worldwide are talking about it. Working just 4 days and having 3 days off is heaven for employees but not so much for employers who aren’t (yet) well acquainted with the benefits.
Efficiency should not be equated with number of hours or days worked, they are not the same, but in today’s trend almost everyone believes this to be true.
In this article, we will talk about how a four-day workweek is the best schedule for creative and knowledge-centric firms. The standard work hours is 8 hours daily or 40 hours per week for a full-time job. With a four-day workweek, the setup can be either a 32-hour workweek or 10-hour daily for 4 days. We’ll take a look at just what this means.
Recommended Reading: Searching For Happiness In The Workplace
The more hours there are for work, the more people find ways to distract themselves because they desire change from their routine. It doesn’t necessarily mean more time for efficient work. In fact, forcing more working hours onto creative and knowledge workers has a detrimental effect.
You see, creativity and critical thinking can’t be forced. They both thrive in freedom. Freedom in the sense that they are not robots meant to work 8-12 hours a day for 5 days. It might sound counterintuitive to say that in order to have quality work and in order to squeeze every second of every working moment for maximum efficiency, employees should spend less time at work.
In fact, this is what Jason Fried did on 37Signals, now known as Basecamp. According to him, “Better work gets done in four days than in five.” He said that during our school days, we were given a summer vacation from school and that time off from school was tremendously helpful in breaking the monotony. But as we grow older and life becomes more serious, these breaks shorten. Some even go for years without having a real vacation.
When people have more time to work, they inadvertently try to fill every possible hour. In between they are looking for ways to distract themselves from the desolation of a monotonous work environment. Having a shorter workweek might just do the trick of increasing productivity, since there’s less time to fool around.
Here’s the kicker, officials in Sweden have been working on a 6-hour work day in the hopes of helping workers increase their happiness, productivity, and ultimately be more healthy.
Suppose you are a web designer and your employer told you to design five unique landing pages within the week. Sounds like an easy job especially if you enjoy designing. If you are skilled and experienced enough, you can definitely pull this off. You might even work overtime just to please your employer.
But no matter how skilled and experienced you are, if this goes on for several weeks to months, you’ll just feel all spent and be mentally exhausted, right? People don’t want to spend the majority of their lives at work.
The current setup of many companies is to give their employees both one or two days off and a lot of overtime during workweeks. This leaves employees to just spend their free time at home, catching up on their sleep. In western culture, this is seen as a positive thing, being a workaholic. However, in many South-East Asian countries, working overtime suggests employees aren’t efficient enough to finish their work on time.
Can you imagine employees being happy under this setup, where they only have one or two days to rest and not enough time for family, friends, and for themselves?
Let’s take a peek at how happiness and more free time work in a grander scale. Countries who work shorter hours are the happiest and their economies are doing just fine. Take for example; Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Sweden. According to the World Happiness Report 2013, these countries were the top 5 in terms of highest levels of happiness.
The report shows that one major benefit of being happy is that people become more productive. Other major benefits include people living longer lives and low crime rates due to people being generally good.
Coincidentally, these countries have the shortest work hours per week in a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2013. The Netherlands’ average hours per week is 29, the shortest in the world for full-time salaried workers. This is followed closely by Denmark (33), Norway (33) Switzerland (35), and Sweden (36). The Swedes work 143 hours less than Americans per year.
Why do you think people change companies or careers? It’s not because they just feel like doing so. It’s because they’re not satisfied with their work. Most of us have been there. Why did you leave your previous job? Probably because the salary is too low or the work setting is terrible, but often times for most people it’s because a better opportunity presented itself elsewhere.
The World Happiness Report 2013 published a study that strengthens the idea that the happier people are at their workplace, the more they tend to cooperate and help improve the entirety of their work.
If you own a company with a high turnover rate of employees, you might want to consider investigating your employees’ key motivators. Usually these motivators are: security, recognition, purpose, and freedom. If you want to seriously understand what motivates others, a great starting point is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Give people these four key motivators and they will be happy, and in turn they will work with you for as long as you satisfy them.
A four-day workweek also solves the issue of a high turnover rate too. Happy employees usually find their purpose easily and will do their best to perform well. In turn, they might just get recognized for their outstanding work which leads to job security. And finally, they will have more time for themselves.
Another thing is that great talent will gravitate towards you. Adding an extra day of freedom can go a long way for many people. And if your goal is to attract great talent, a four-day workweek is probably one of the best deals out there (especially now that it’s popularity is still rising).
If you are thinking of starting your own company or doing freelance work, don’t forget to consider the benefits of having a four-day workweek. I know that 5 days is the most popular, followed by 6 working days, but don’t forget about what motivates you as well as your employees.
Most people’s motivation boils down to freedom. Some people work in order to have money whilst others want to save enough money to live a particular lifestyle. Regardless of what it is, the appeal of a four-day workweek is something that can act as a big motivator.
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