Work/23: The Big Shift
As cofounder of 4 Day Week Global, Andrew Barnes has a front-row seat to the world’s largest experiment on the effects of scaling back the workweek.
It started with Barnes’s own New Zealand company, Perpetual Guardian, when he wondered whether his staff members could do their jobs better if they worked the equivalent of four days instead of five. It would be crucial, he knew, to still deliver the same output, customer service, and profitability. He landed on what he calls the 100-80-100 rule: “We pay 100% income for 80% time, as long as we get 100% output.”
The trial made global headlines — “We stopped counting when we got over about 14,000” — and Barnes was inundated with requests for advice. He started a not-for-profit organization and began helping companies on their own pilots, providing virtual workshops, mentoring others, and networking opportunities. The results, which now include data from 91 companies and 3,500 workers, have been analyzed by a team of academics.
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And those results have been universally positive. “Not only are 90%-plus of employees saying they like the four-day week — and, in fact, they really don’t want to go back — but companies are seeing material benefits in productivity,” Barnes said.
Barnes talked about the experiments and their findings during Work/23, an MIT Sloan Management Review symposium held in May 2023. He wasn’t able to get to all of the questions from attendees during the event, so he answers some of them below. (Questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity.)
Is there any research comparing a four-day workweek versus five reduced days (at six hours a day, for example)? Do the results suggest that four days is the better way?
Both are viewed by us as four-day weeks! The clickbait is “a four-day week,” but in reality, we talk about reduced hours working — the 100-80-100 rule. The key is that employees get the time off that’s important to them. In my company, we have some people who take a full day off, others who take two half days, and others, often working parents, who work compressed hours five days a week. That schedule helps with child care issues, which a single day off would not address.