This is why you should be allowed to have Wednesdays off work

Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 3:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 4:34 pm
A four day working week has proved to be beneficial to productivity in places it has been introduced (Photo: Shutterstock)

The working week can often feel painfully long and, come Wednesday, many of us are already dreaming of that Friday feeling.

The midweek slump is something that most workers will have experienced, which is why one company has allowed staff to take Wednesdays off, in an effort to boost productivity - and it seems to be working.

Higher productivity

Employees at digital agency Versa in Melbourne, Australia work a total of 37.5 hours per week, but this is spread over the course of four days instead of the standard five.

On Wednesdays the office is closed, and staff are not required to attend client meetings or pitches, or even check their emails during the day.

The four day working week has been running at the private company for a year now and has proved to be particularly effective in boosting both productivity and staff morale.

Chief executive Kathryn Blackham praised the new approach, explaining to ABC News, "We are three times more profitable than we were last year, we have grown by 30 or 40 per cent in the last year in terms of revenue, and we have got happier staff and who are much more productive.

"I know a lot of workplaces have that kind of Monday morning 'feels', where there's a bit of a vibe in the office, people are bantering back and forward.

“And in the end you get that kind-of 'hump day' [on Wednesday], which is a little bit harder to do.

"By the time we get to Thursday it's like a Monday again. You get a new feeling of enthusiasm and cracking on with work, collaboration.”

British employees work the longest hours in the EU but were found to be less productive than other countries (Photo: Shutterstock)

Breaking the conventional

Despite the success of the shorter working week in Melbourne, the approach has yet to be implemented more widely.

Resistance to change may stem from concerns that a reduced working week could hinder both profits and underemployment levels, but where the innovative approach has been introduced it has been credited for improving employee well-being.

An experiment in Gothenburg saw some staff given reduced working hours, while others remained the same, with results showing fewer hours to be beneficial to staff.

University of Melbourne professor of management, Peter Gahan, commented, "The preliminary results from that experiment suggest in fact they were able to maintain productivity levels by and large, and there was some benefit for workers in terms of well-being and other types of outcomes."

Working weeks of up to 50, 60 and 70 hours are not uncommon in service industries, despite often proving to be inefficient, but the success of introducing shorter working weeks could see more businesses do the same.

Is Britain the hardest working?

British employees work the longest hours in the EU, with full-time workers clocking up an average of 42 hours per week last year - almost two more than the typical EU worker, according to the TUC.

In Denmark workers average 37 hours a week, while countries including Holland, Italy, Belgium, France, Sweden and Ireland average 39.

However, while the British totted up the most hours, they were actually found to be less productive than those in some other countries, lagging behind the likes of Germany and Denmark.

In 2017, Britain was ranked 14th in terms of output per worker per hour.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said, "Britain's long hours culture is nothing to be proud of.

"It's robbing workers of a decent home life and time with their loved ones. Overwork, stress and exhaustion have become the new normal.

"Other countries have shown that reducing working hours isn't only good for workers, it can boost productivity.”

The average full-time week in Britain has shortened by 18 minutes over the past decade, according to the TUC, but at the current rate of progress, it would take 63 years for workers to get the same amount of free time as elsewhere in the EU.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Edinburgh Evening News