Charlotte Lockhart: A four-day week is the productivity answer we have been waiting for

Charlotte Lockheart

Significant technological improvements, the rise of the internet and social media has formed a hyper-connected world, with innovation disintermediating established organisations and industries. Surprisingly, there has not been a corresponding advance in overall productivity.

In 2018, we made a bold decision to test our assumptions around productivity with a landmark four-day week trial at our business Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand. The success of this trial showed us that the time for the future of work is now. The results demonstrated the long-idealised prospect of working a four-day week is in fact practical and possible, delivering positive outcomes for productivity, profitability and staff wellbeing and engagement.

Independent quantitative and qualitative research of the trial put hard facts behind why the four-day week is the future of work. Engagement levels rose between 30% and 40%, to the highest level the researchers had ever seen in New Zealand.

Outside the workplace, a consistent theme was that individuals had more time to accomplish tasks in their personal lives, to participate in family life, to restore and reconnect, to learn and contribute and to explore and imagine.

The qualitative analysis during the trial, and our subsequent experience, further found employees were more intellectually engaged in their work, were finding ways to work more productively and efficiently, reported increased levels of collaboration and teamwork, and were more challenged and stimulated as they upskilled and cross-trained to cover colleagues.

Many employees felt an enhanced sense of goodwill and reciprocity towards the organisation, and reported a willingness to be available for work purposes on their day off.

To top it all off, productivity levels remained constant, meaning the organisation’s profitability was not negatively impacted by the trial.

Since the trial and permanent implementation, the movement has gone global. We have spoken to countless international business leaders, presented at industry events and participated in government panels about the far-reaching benefits of our four-day week model, concluding that the world needs this to catch on.

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We also recently established ‘4 Day Week Global’ to provide a community to promote the benefits of a productivity-focused, reduced-hour workplace, as well as to support others looking to launch their own four-day working week, and a foundation to support research around the world.

Charlotte Lockhart is advisory board member at the Wellbeing Research Centre at Oxford University and chief executive officer at 4 Day Week Global