Imagine a world of never having to work more than two days at a time.
A world of never having to chug dangerous amounts of instant coffee due to a huge sleep defi
cit, or spend half your waking life waiting for that next lazy Saturday morning to roll around.It sounds like a utopian dream, but one Australian company has implemented a rule that sees employees taking a day off a week — and both personal happiness and productivity have soared as a result.Last year in July, Australian digital marketing company Versa trialled an employment initiative that allowed employees to take every Wednesday off work — provided they could get all their work done in four days instead of five.Versa CEO Kath Blackham, who started the agency 10 years ago, told news.com.au it came out of wanting to give employees a set day to honour their personal commitments and have better mental wellbeing.“We already offered a lot of flexibility, so everyone at Versa was working under different arrangements,” she told news.com.au. “But it got to the point where you couldn’t book a meeting because you couldn’t get everybody together at the same time.“I wanted to give people the flexibility but allowing everyone to have their own didn’t work for us.“I also had a couple of recent graduates who were very young, and were talking about how they were going to go part-time. I figured, if that’s the case that people are just expecting that now, I need to come up with a solution.” Versa CEO Kath Blackham says productivity has soared since the changes were made.Source:SuppliedSo why Wednesday? Why not just tack an extra day onto the weekend, and give people the Monday or Friday off?
Ms Blackham said the whole point of the four-day work week was to allow people to take care of their mental health. “We’re a very young workforce. A lot of the guys that work at Versa are in their 20s, and I just felt like if I gave everyone a three-day weekend, it would encourage them to really go large over the weekend.“The whole idea of a four-day week is to give people the opportunity to get healthy again, and catch up on sleep and exercise.“These days we talk about the classic sickie — it’s also called a mental health day.”The idea of condensing five days of work into four may sound intense, but Ms Blackham says that’s not the case.“Working an 8-6 day is not that far out from the realms of what most people are doing anyway,” she said. “I wanted to create an environment that almost made it difficult for our employees to do a 60-hour work week because it was too hard for them to fit it into four days. But fitting 37.5 hours into four days isn’t really that hard.”To make things easier, employees have the option of working from home when they need to. The office remains open on a Wednesday — and Ms Blackham says some people do still come in out of choice — but ultimately it “just comes down to how efficient you are”.She said gender equality in the workplace was another important factor, noting the four-day work week was about giving women — particularly parents — a better work-life balance. “If they feel like they can have both a family and a career, that’s a win for me.”
The results so far have been positive. Ms Blackham says profit has almost tripled since the Wednesday-off rule came in last July, and Versa’s revenue has grown by 46 per cent in that time.Staff are healthier, happier, and less likely to take sick days or resign.While she acknowledges it may not suit every trade or company, Ms Blackham hopes the Wednesday-off model will help encourage other bosses to re-examine their schedules.“I’m hoping other companies will look at this and stop and think about different ways they can implement something similar that allows staff to be happier and more efficient,” she said. “I strongly believe the workforce is changing and I think in 20 years, the 9-5 day will be a thing of the past.”Versa isn’t the first company to disrupt the classic “Monday to Friday, 9-5” work schedule.Earlier this year, New Zealand trusts business Perpetual Guardian revealed a similar initiative designed to boost productivity.Last year, news.com.au reported on Hobart-based financial firm Collins SBA, which implemented a five-hour work day and saw a similar rise in productivity and employee happiness.