Travel and hospitality recruitment agency ideas: Why adopt a 4-day work week

Not only have the Labour party announced a plan to gradually move the workforce to a 4-day week if they get into power in the UK, but Microsoft also announced that their Japan offices successfully trialled a 4-day week this August. So, is a 4-day working week a crazy idea that will cause turmoil or something that benefits productivity and worker wellbeing?

The Microsoft experiment involved 2,300 employees getting Friday off for five weeks in a row, without any decrease in their pay. The surprising results were that productivity increased by a whopping 40%. They also found that workers were happier. However, staff were also promised a £1000 holiday subsidy from the company. In the Guardian, CEO Takuya Hirano is reported as saying, ‘Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot… I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.’

This may sound like a revolutionary idea, but it’s been tried before. In New Zealand, the financial services company Perpetual Guardian found that moving its 240 staff to a 4-day week for 8 weeks lowered staff stress and increased productivity by 20%. The trial was monitored by university academics, and found that workers reported being more stimulated, empowered and committed, compared with a survey from the year before.

The Chief Executive of Perpetual Guardian, Andrew Barnes, said, ‘This is an idea whose time has come.’ He was so taken with the results that he has written a guide to implementing a 4-day working week for other companies with details about the experiment and how it worked. He has set up a not-for-profit company called 4 Day Week Global to spread the word about the benefits.

However, some smaller companies have reported trying the experiment, with results being good at first but then falling slightly.

In another study, published by the Harvard Business Review, it was found that shorter days at work could also improve productivity. Reducing the daily hours from 8 to 6 actually resulted in more work getting done.

The productivity puzzle

One thing is certain: UK average working hours have been increasing since the financial crisis in 2008, but productivity levels have remained virtually flat according to the Office for National Statistics. There is no economic theory about why this is the case, and it has become known as the productivity puzzle.

The Labour Party’s 4-day-week proposal is part of their plan to tackle these productivity problems and enliven the workforce. They propose that the changes would take place over a number of years and would operate differently for different parts of the economy. They commissioned a report by Lord Skidelsky which stated that working less without loss of pay was good for material and spiritual wellbeing. But it also said that imposing a four-day week would be unrealistic, and may actually be unpopular.

Labour’s political opponents have suggested that it wouldn’t work because it would increase costs for the NHS, for example, because more staff would be needed. And others have suggested it would result in lower wages over time.

Without wanting to be political about it, there is certainly a case for questioning the status quo of our working culture. After all, during the industrial revolution, much longer hours were worked. And we’d all now agree that that’s not a great idea for health and work-life balance. If it can be proved that a business can run more efficiently with less hours worked, surely it’s something that should at least be looked at.

Here at Progressive Travel Recruitment, our director James Roberts puts a lot of trust in us, his recruitment team, to work flexibly from home or offices abroad to achieve what needs to be done. This trust and flexibility definitely results in hard work and good results. There is evidence that those working a 4-day week felt that their bosses had put trust in them.

What do you think of this idea? Would a 4-day week be a joy and would you work your socks off in order to take an extra weekend day to spend how you wished? Or do you think it would lead to laziness and decline in effort put in? As a travel and tourism recruitment agency that likes to throw new ideas around, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Join the debate over on our company LinkedIn page.

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