It’s Thursday afternoon and you’re snailing your way to the end of the work week. One peppy co-worker remarks “this is my Friday” because they’re taking the real Friday off. You groan and begin to scrutinize society’s five-day work week. How did the universe decide weekends should only be two days?
Well, maybe it’s time for the cosmos to reorder itself.
Perpetual Guardian, an Auckland-based trustee company, became New Zealand’s first major business to experiment with “four days’ work for five days’ pay” earlier this year. Over the course of the two-month trial, researchers found that employees at Perpetual Guardian saw a 7% decrease in stress and a 20% increase in team engagement.
The program was so successful that Perpetual Guardian wants to make the four-day work week a permanent feature. In a statement to CNN, CEO Andrew Barnes stressed the need to pay for productivity rather than for time physically spent to the office, lauding his team’s response to the new schedule: “You get a motivated, energized, stimulated, loyal work force…I have ended up with statistics that indicate my staff are fiercely proud of the company they work for because it gives a damn."
For many folks, a four-day work week is the holy grail of work-life balance. And while a permanent four-day schedule is still quite rare, similar initiatives are not uncommon. According to a survey by Gartner, 46% of organizations in North America are offering their employees “Summer Fridays” this year, giving them the flexibility to take the day off or at least leave early.
Flexibility Breeds Accountability
As you might expect, organizations offering perks like this have a competitive advantage to retain top talent. As the War for Talent wages on, no evidence of successful work-life balance initiatives should be ignored.
Some companies are understandably concerned that a “Summer Fridays” program will put a dent in productivity. On the contrary, Gartner’s Brian Kropp suggests the diminution in hours has an opposite effect: “Most companies have told us that with this benefit in place, they've found employees work harder earlier in the week because they know they have to complete their work before Friday.”
Similarly, companies are realizing the popularity of remote work opportunities. Longtime stigmas that remote work breeds laziness and distances employees from onsite co-workers are being challenged by studies concluding that flexible work options actually increase employee engagement. In addition, thanks to so many communication channels, remote employees are motivated to foster genuine bonds with distant workers.
Though it’s prudent for organizations to associate the need for work-life perks with the incoming millennial workforce, free Fridays and remote work flexibility aren’t just so 20-somethings can hit craft beer festivals and ghost each other on Bumble.
Consider the real joy for 39-year-old Christian Taylor, a philanthropy services manager at Perpetual Guardian, when she learned about the four-day work week trial earlier this year: “My initial reaction was quite emotional because I am a single mum and I have a young son. To know that I can keep my budget exactly the way it is, afford – somewhat – an Auckland mortgage and have an extra day with my son, in his younger years ... it is just unheard of.”
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