Here's how you can talk to your employer about the findings!

With workplace flexibility becoming the norm, there's a new working structure gaining a lot of attention: the 4-day work week. While it may sound too good to be true, research suggests that adopting this approach may improve our mental health and productivity. 

In the following post, we take a look at the latest study and how to speak to your boss about the findings.

What is the 4-day work week?

The 4-day work week is exactly what it says - rather than laboring away for the obligatory five days a week, you work for four days. Now - and here's the important part - that doesn't mean that you get paid any less. Instead, you have the same standard salary but work one day less each week. It's a step away from the traditional nine-to-five lifestyle.

It equates to roughly a 32-hour work week, depending on the business. Hop back in time a few decades and the 40-hour work week wasn't questioned. You clocked in on Monday at 9 am and clocked out Friday afternoon. It's what most of our parents did. But that doesn't mean that it's the only option. In recent years, scientists and experts alike have waxed lyrical about the potential productivity and well-being benefits of working less.

What the University of Cambridge study reveals 

But wait, what would actually happen if people only worked four days each week? Previous research has suggested that it wouldn't be a disaster for our productivity levels. Following that trend, the latest 4-day work week study sheds some light on the issue. Experts from the University of Cambridge looked at the effect that a “20% reduction in working time with no loss of pay” would have on workers across 61 different organizations. 

Surprisingly, the productivity levels of the professionals didn't take the nose dive you might expect. "Before the trial, many questioned whether we would see an increase in productivity to offset the reduction in working time, but this is exactly what we found," said sociologist Prof. Brendan Burchell, one of the research leaders, in a recent report.

The results suggest that cutting back on working hours increases productivity. "Many employees were very keen to find efficiency gains themselves. Long meetings with too many people were cut short or ditched completely,” he said. “Workers were much less inclined to kill time and actively sought out technologies that improved their productivity."

It doesn't end there. The landmark results also found that lower working hours led to lower stress levels and allowed them to relax. "It was common for employees to describe a significant reduction in stress," explained researcher and Cambridge PhD candidate, Niamh Bridson Hubbard, in the report. "Many described being able to switch off or breathe more easily at home. One person told us how their 'Sunday dread' had disappeared."

Speaking to your boss about a 4-day work week 

The modern world is changing. Companies with a 32-hour work week include Buffer, Kickstarter, Shake Shack, and Bunny Studio. But how do you broach this tricky topic with your manager? While businesses are under no obligation to offer the 4-day work week, singing the praises of this approach may help you to get your point across. If you're planning on speaking to your boss about this option, here are some things to keep in mind: 

Schedule a meeting with your manager 

First things first, you should schedule a meeting with your manager about this option. Casually bringing up that you would like to work four days by the water cooler will do you no favors. This is a serious topic of conversation and so you have to treat it as such. 

Speak to your manager about when you can have a formal chat. You can let them know that the meeting is about having more flexibility around your working hours, for example. However, you should save the specific details for the meeting itself. 

Do your homework first

Waltzing into a meeting and announcing that you want a 4-day work week will not get you far. You need some evidence to back up your case. Why do you want to work fewer hours? What benefits do you expect to gain? And, most importantly, what value does that add to the business? If you can put across your argument in a clear way, you have a shot. 

Negotiate with your manager

Since COVID-19 kicked off, there has automatically been greater flexibility in the way that we work. That's a given. Your company may have adopted flexi-hours, home working, or even a hybrid model. You can use the existing flexibility as a starting point here. 

When you speak to your boss, draw their attention to the changes that have already been successful. Talk about how these initiatives had an element of risk but ultimately paid off. 

Ask for a trial, if possible

Let's be honest, your manager is unlikely to give the notion of a 4-day work week the “OK” immediately. However, they may be open to trialing the approach. Speak to them about the idea of giving a shorter working week a go for a month and seeing the results. That way, they can see what impact the new approach has on your overall productivity. 

Don't push too hard here

While the 4-day work week may be effective in some businesses, there's no saying that it will work in every situation. If upper management is set against the idea, don't continue to push it with them. Chances are, they have a clear view of why it simply won't work. 

The 4-day work week has been a hot topic in recent years, with more companies bringing it in as standard. If there's no opportunity to work fewer hours in your current workplace, you may want to look elsewhere for the chance. Sprucing up your resume and seeking out the companies offering this structure is the way to go. 

Searching for your next challenge? If it's time to take the leap, why not submit your resume for a free resume review to make sure you're starting off on the right foot?

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