July 23, 2018
One of the most vapid work-related clichés is “work smarter, not harder.” Generally speaking, it’s extremely unhelpful advice that bosses and coworkers bust out when you bring up unrealistic deadlines or even just fatigue. Annoying or not, there is a kernel of truth to it. You can accomplish a lot in eight hours, but it can be a struggle focus on one task at a time, particularly if you’ve got literally anything else going on in your life besides work that´ s eating up your attention. But thanks to a radical experiment, there may be a way to get more done in fewer hours.
A New Zealand-based firm cut its employees workweek to four days with a three-day weekend. The results were surprising, not only because the quality of work and the level of productivity didn’t drop, they actually improved. Perpetual Guardian, which handles trusts, wills, and estates, employees around 240 people, and by giving them more time during the week to handle personal matters, the firm found that they were more engaged and efficient, and less distracted, when they were on the clock. Per the New York Times:
The firm ran the experiment — which reduced the workweek to 32 hours from 40 — in March and April this year, and asked two researchers to study the effects on staff
Jarrod Haar, a human resources professor at Auckland University of Technology, said employees reported a 24 percent improvement in work-life balance, and came back to work energized after their days off.
“Supervisors said staff were more creative, their attendance was better, they were on time, and they didn’t leave early or take long breaks,” Mr. Haar said. “Their actual job performance didn’t change when doing it over four days instead of five.”The important detail is that while the company cut back to 32 hours per week, the employees kept getting paid for 40, so this isn’t a matter of bosses squeezing more out of their workers for less money. In response, employees found ways to cut out time-wasting activity, like cutting two hour meetings to 30 minutes or setting up signals so coworkers knew they needed to work undisturbed. The experiment was such a success that Perpetual Guardian is now weighing making the change permanent.