Tuesday, 14 August 2018

I Wanna Take Part

I often get taken to task by my co-workers who see me, the lone IT guy in a massive region, sitting in his office "doing nothing" while they slave away in their jobs. I take this good-natured ribbing because I happen to be able to multi-task fairly efficiently, but I often come in earlier or stay later on days where I can so that I get more done in the hope that I don't have to work harder down the line. It never truly works out as I planned, but one can hope, right? Today, though, there may be hope as one New Zealand company is throwing conservative work standards into a tizzy with their novel idea!

According to a report in The Guardian, "Two-hundred-and-forty staff at Perpetual Guardian, a company which manages trusts, wills and estate planning, trialled a four-day working week over March and April, working four, eight-hour days but getting paid for five."
The experiment run by Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes saw the following results:
Jarrod Haar, professor of human resource management at Auckland University of Technology, found job and life satisfaction increased on all levels across the home and work front, with employees performing better in their jobs and enjoying them more than before the experiment.

Work-life balance, which reflected how well respondents felt they could successfully manage their work and non-work roles, increased by 24 percentage points.

In November last year just over half (54%) of staff felt they could effectively balance their work and home commitments, while after the trial this number jumped to 78%.

Staff stress levels decreased by 7 percentage points across the board as a result of the trial, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by 5 percentage points.
Hi, where do I apply? This idea that Andrew Barnes has sounds absolutely incredible, and it seems to go back to the idea of working smarter, not harder. I totally subscribe to the idea of working smarter, so this makes too much sense to me. At a previous place of employment, I tried to get them to institute a ten-hour four-day work week for my department so that everyone got an extra day off. That was met with both laughter and every way one can pronounce the word "no", so I'm glad to see someone actually put the idea into practice and get tangible results back from the experiment!

Perhaps what encourages me even more to explore this idea was this section from the article.
Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School, said employees’ motivation and commitment to work increased because they were included in the planning of the experiment, and played a key role in designing how the four-day week would be managed so as not to negatively impact productivity.

“Employees designed a number of innovations and initiatives to work in a more productive and efficient manner, from automating manual processes to reducing or eliminating non-work-related internet usage,” said Delaney.
If you're going to let me, the employee, design my work week for efficiency and productivity, you've already sold me on the idea. Having the policies and procedures dictated to me from someone who has a very vague idea what I do in my daily routine frustrates me to no end, so having me including in the planning phase to maximize my efficiency lights me up. That's the kind of input that I want my employer to seek when looking for ways to be more productive, so this entire experiment appeals to me in a big way.

I get that most employers want the five-day work week to continue as it's currently designed to offer holidays and other benefits based on the hours worked by employees. I'd counter with the fact that two weeks of holidays rarely scratches the surface for most people when it comes to time they need for themselves, and the idea that "weekends are enough" is laughable to me. When 78% of 240 people feel they can effectively manage their home and work commitments better with an extra day off per week, I'm very sure that the end result is happier, more productive staff which is good for business. Sure, there are likely less sick days used, less health-related benefits sought, and less mistakes made due to a number of factors - complacency, monotony, fatigue, etc. - but the bottom line is that happier staff are more productive staff because they feel valued by their employer, especially when they're involved in making the workplace better. That's just simple psychology.

I know that, for me, I am afforded a lot of freedom in my role thanks to my travel schedule and the requirements of my position. My supervisor and manager are great people who understand the importance of work-life balance as well, and they've allowed me time to pursue things that interest me. There are certainly deadlines and goals that have to be met in my position, but the fact that I meet these requirements regularly has allowed me some greater freedom than being chained to a desk. Don't get me wrong: I love my job thanks to the freedoms I have in it. I'm grateful for these freedoms, but it could be enhanced even further with an additional day off per week. The amount of non-work stuff I could get done with that extra day would be too numerous to count.

I'd love to see this implemented in a North American workplace where it seems more and more employees are living to work just to pay bills and keep a roof over their heads. How great would one extra day off per week be for the psyches of the employees who take part in this experiment? I would assume there would be a major upswing in their productivity and efficiency, not to mention a far happier outlook on life, and that's great for business. If there is a business willing to try this in North America, I would hope that there are credible and legitimate studies done on the results because I suspect that the prison of five-day work weeks the majority of us are stuck in would crumble.

The only question left to ask: which company is willing to try it out?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: