A 4-day work week could help your exhausted, demotivated staff

Founder and CEO of Commission Factory Zane McIntyre suggests fewer hours could deliver big benefits.

It’s been an incredibly tough couple of years, and finding the space for team members to rest and recharge has been a serious challenge for the industry. Working from home has blurred the boundaries between work and life, with research backing up what we all know to be true: a non-existent commute and breakfast al desko means we’re all working more hours than  ever before.   

That’s where the four-day work week comes in. While the concept of a 32 hour week might seem like a controversial idea for most businesses, let alone those in adland, there’s every indication it’s the very best thing you could do for your agency.   

The four-day work week is simply another gradual adjustment in the way we approach work and life. Up until the early 20th century, it was common that people would work anywhere from 80 to 100 hours per week. Then in 1926, Ford Motor Company became one of the first companies in America to adopt a five-day, 40-hour week for workers in its factories, with the model spreading its way around the globe not long after.   

Skip forward almost 100 years and that 40-hour work week still exists. With so many technological advances at our fingertips to speed up productivity, surely it makes sense that reducing to a 32-hour work week is the next evolution of labour?   

Of course, a reduction in hours should in no way equal a reduction in pay, nor should it be a way to keep employees from the benefits and bonuses they deserve. Instead, it’s simply a new way to think about the working week, one in which employees have a better relationship with their jobs and their free time.  

By removing all the unnecessary fluff associated with working too many hours, staff are suddenly freed up from the weight of presenteeism and unnecessary meetings. 

Fewer hours equals greater productivity  

Parkinson’s Law is the adage that work will expand to fill the time allotted for its completion. Given too many hours to do the same task, humans are very good at procrastinating and overthinking. Equally, when faced with fewer hours at our disposal, we’re very good at fitting it all in.   

Ford’s major discovery was that working more yielded only a minor increase in productivity that lasted a brief period. By working less, it’s still possible to maintain the same workloads without a dip in productivity. With a clear implementation roadmap and strong client communication, it’s possible for businesses to keep productivity, service, and customer satisfaction at the same level, if not better.  

With the understanding that every hour counts, businesses will find themselves experiencing fewer or shorter meetings, a better use of task management systems to manage their days, and a better ability to communicate succinctly. Rotas and digital collaboration tools can further increase productivity, as well as recording all meeting and training sessions and making them available to all staff at a time that suits them.  

Employee happiness is a business asset  

Longer weekends give staff a longer rest time to spend with family and friends and pursue hobbies, interests or simply relax, meaning they’ll come back to work refreshed, reset, and recharged.   

When employees are happy in their roles, they’re more likely to be creative, engaged, and great at what they do. This cultural shift in mindset is a very real business asset, albeit not a tangible one.  

As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to affect our industry and its people, employee wellbeing is no longer a perk or a gimmick – it’s a necessity. Our brightest talents are taking the time to dig deep around what their jobs mean to them in the context of their wider lives, and businesses need to adapt to fit their needs. Long live the four-day work week.  

Zane McIntyre is the founder and CEO of Commission Factory.


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