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- A New Zealand company, Perpetual Guardian, experimented with a four-day work week, The New York Times reports.
- Seeing that employees were happier and more productive, the company wants to make it a permanent change.
- Other companies have also tried shortened work weeks and seen similar results.
- Researchers say people can only do concentrated work for a limited amount of time.
A New Zealand company is making headlines across the globe for a recent experiment that it conducted among its staff.
In March and April, the 240 employees at Perpetual Guardian worked four-day workweeks (32 hours instead of 40) – and were paid for five.
Now, according to The New York Times, Perpetual Guardian, a firm that manages trusts, wills, and estates, is hoping to make the new work schedule permanent.
During the trial, Perpetual Guardian had researchers study the effects on its employees.
“Supervisors said staff were more creative, their attendance was better, they were on time, and they didn’t leave early or take long breaks,” one of those researchers told The Times. “Their actual job performance didn’t change when doing it over four days instead of five.”
Perpetual Guardian posted a video clip on YouTube of CEO Andrew Barnes announcing the beginning of the trial. At first, employees are gathered around Barnes for what must have seemed like a typical staff meeting – but when Barnes makes his announcement, eyes widen and you can hear murmuring and giggling.
Perpetual Guardian staffers who spoke to The Times said they found strategies to be more efficient during the workday. For example, two-hour meetings were cut to 30 minutes.
Executives and researchers alike say people can only do concentrated work for a limited number of hours
A blog post on Perpetual Guardian’s website hails the trial as a “world-first” – but in fact, other companies have made similar changes.
Business Insider previously reported on a Swedish government study on shorter workweeks. Results showed that employees were happier, less stressed, and enjoyed their work more. The only problem was that the program was rather expensive, since the government had to hire additional employees.
Meanwhile, Amazon has experimented with having employees work 30 hours a week, while earning 75% of their normal salary and keeping all their benefits.
And technology education company Treehouse has had a 32-hour work week since 2006.
There’s science behind these changes. The research of psychologist Anders Ericsson, who studies the development of expertise, suggests that people can only do concentrated work for about four or five hours at a time.
“If you’re pushing people well beyond that time they can really concentrate maximally, you’re very likely to get them to acquire some bad habits,” Ericsson previously told Business Insider.
According to OECD data, New Zealanders worked an average of 37.6 hours per week at their primary job in 2017. In the United States, it was 38.6.
Barnes told The Times that the results of the trial suggested that results are more important than face-time.
“A contract should be about an agreed level of productivity,” Barnes said. “If you deliver that in less time, why should I cut your pay?”