Emma Mitchell

By Emma Mitchell
Senior Workplace Consultant |

Everyone uses their office space differently. We discuss how to see if a four day working week could work for your business, and actually increase productivity.

Microsoft Japan recently conducted a ‘Work Life Choice Challenge’, giving teams paid leave every Friday for a month, and the results shocked just about everyone. Productivity increased by 40% Staff were printing less, conducting more remote meetings, reducing chargeable travel costs, and being more efficient with their time. They packed more into their 32 hour week than they otherwise would have in the traditional 38 hours. The motivation? A simple day off.

Another study from a New Zealand firm in 2016 saw employees given every Friday off, and productivity increased a more modest 20%, while revenue and profitability remained the same. Staff said they were more engaged with work, which is shown by the increase in productivity, as they were completing the same volume of work in less time. This leads us to wonder – are Fridays becoming redundant?

Entering the age of self-determination

Things get interesting when we start to look at work flows in many businesses, where people are naturally packing things into the start of the week. We see a higher strain on resources between Monday and Thursday, with more staff in the office competing for desk space and a bigger strain on facilities and meeting rooms.

Technology is driving us to be able to better manage our time and agenda. It enables us to be more connected and work from almost anywhere; providing a sense of autonomy and empowerment for staff to take control of their working week.

These research studies are thought-provoking, however most companies aren’t ready to cut Friday out of the working week just yet. Companies are now faced with a choice, tackling the Friday conundrum one of two ways; enforcing attendance on Fridays, or embracing the change. Let’s look at a few approaches.

Forced Fridays

Some companies spread out demand for their facilities by encouraging consistent occupancy throughout the week. They use their flexible working policy to encourage staff to work away from the office or from home, on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. This helps maximise the usage of real estate, resulting in consistent occupancy across the five day working week. While this may be beneficial for proving your property’s return, it may not be well-received by staff wanting a more flexible working arrangement.

Food Fridays

The other option to increase occupancy is to entice people into the office on Fridays. We’ve seen different clients implement a variety of ways to draw staff in on a Friday; from food, to dogs, to hair and nail salons. Although this brings an initial boost to Friday engagement, it can be short lived if the variety of events isn’t maintained. This also leads us to think (if not being slightly cynical), if people are only coming into the office to pet a puppy, are they really being more productive?

Flexible Fridays

This is the approach of unofficially implementing a four day working week. Employers can encourage staff to work from home on Fridays and leave it to employees if they choose to work or not. This allows them to catch-up on any leftover work, but still afford them an early finish and head-start to the weekend.

This could result in most of your staff seeing the reported 20-40% boost in working week productivity, completing most of their tasks during Monday to Thursday. Encouraging staff to work from home will give them a head-start on the weekend, yet allow them to finish any work that needs to be done for Monday morning. This gives them extra time to unwind and get into the right headspace for the upcoming week, leaving the weekend free to promote a superior work-life balance.

What does this mean for your office space?

Each business has its own unique culture, team dynamic and office space, so it really depends on what will work best for your business. Highly mobile workforces can easily adopt this approach, versus some industries are naturally more tethered to an office setup. Chances are, you’ll already have a pretty good indicator of what type of approach would work best for you already.

Look around next Friday – is it a hub of activity or a ghost town?