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Is this finally proof that we should all be working a four-day week?

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Harvey Day
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A company in New Zealand gave all their staff a day off work every week, without cutting salaries, and found their work was much, much better 

The thing about crises is that they can sometimes help put things into perspective. “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” so the saying goes. 

A good example of this is how, ever since the 2008 financial crash and the ensuing political turmoil of Brexit and Donald Trump, we’ve been forced to confront big political problems such as representation, identity and inequality like never before. Popular left-wing politicians like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have been leading the way, especially in their questioning of capitalism. We’re now asking questions like: who is capitalism really working for? Do most of us benefit from our capitalist system or does it mainly work for the wealthy?

And one aspect of capitalism that really needs to be put under the microscope in 2018 is the obsession with working yourself to the bone, as if toiling away for long hours is something to be celebrated.

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Professor Mark Jago, from the University of Nottingham, recently spoke to ShortList about the impact of an excessive workload on stress levels and our overall well being.

“Two huge issues are precarity – including low pay, under-employment, short-term contracts, and housing – and over-work,” he said. “Every professional I know over-works, well over the legal limit of 48 hours. And it isn’t just the quantity of work that’s to blame: much of it is meaningless bullshit or being embedded within a deeply harmful competitive atmosphere.”

But now there’s a fascinating case study from New Zealand that shows how working fewer hours, for the same pay, can actually make you much more productive.

Perpetual Guardian, a company that manages trusts, wills and estate planning, ran a six-week trial in March and April this year that allowed its 240 members of staff to take a free day off every week. All other employment conditions, including pay, were unchanged. Effectively, the company was paying staff for 40 hours when they were only working 32. 

According to the New York Times, the company also asked two researchers to study the effects of the experiment on staff. Researcher Jarrod Haar, a human resources professor at Auckland University of Technology, said employees reported a 24% improvement in work-life balance, and came back to work energised 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,” the professor said. “They worked out where they were wasting time and worked smarter, not harder.”

Staff found they had more time with their kids 

Staff reportedly spent more time with their families, ran errands and did more exercise on their days off.

Andrew Barnes, founder and CEO of the company, said in a statement: “We want people to be the best they can be while they’re in the office, but also at home. It’s the natural solution.”

Christine Brotherton, an HR executive, added: “If employees are engaged with their job and employer, they are more productive.”

So to all you bosses, tycoons and bigwigs out there: really take notice of this story and realise there are better ways of getting the most of your workers. 

(Images: Getty)