How Does a Four-Day Week Influence Work-Life-Balance?
Staff at Bike Citizens work Monday to Thursday, as Friday is already part of the weekend. A working model for the future?
Work-Life-Balance Thanks to the Four-Day Week
Working where and when you want: The typical representative of Generation Y (also known as the Millennial Generation, whose members were teenagers at the turn of the millennium) are willing to work intensively and with commitment. On the other hand they expect more flexibility and the chance to concentrate as much on their private life as on their job.
The international company Bike Citizens attaches great importance to the needs of its staff and is one of the first employers in the German speaking region to respond to this development. Alongside activities with lots of creative leeway and autonomy of decision, employee time management is also to the fore. In July 2014 the four-day week was implemented in order to give staff more time for their leisure activities. Speaking to director Daniel Kofler it becomes clear why the company also benefits overall from its staff’s increased free time.
Who First Had the Idea for the Four-Day Work Week? Where Did This Idea Originate from and When?
Daniel Kofler: Obviously I would now like to claim that it was my idea (laughs). But no. An employee came to me three years ago with an article about an American start-up, in which the CEO was interviewed. This start-up had switched to the four-day week. That prompted me to think about it for the first time.
How Did You Go from the Idea to the Decision to Implement the Four-Day Week?
All too often you take these things as given. I simply calculated the ratio between working days and days off. Normally it comes to one day off, two-and-a-half days of work – five workdays, two days off. When you move to four days of work and three days off however, it yields a ratio of 1 to 1.3; which corresponds to a change of almost 50 percent! That makes a huge difference.
What Interests Are Behind These Considerations?
I would like to differentiate between the company’s and my own personal views. Behind my personal viewpoint is obviously the improved work-leisure time ratio. Work defines itself mostly by the time spent doing it. The longer you work, the better the result, is the assumption. Nowadays however, computers and other machines are taking over an ever-increasing portion of job performance. The human contribution consists of strategic conception, so in mental performance, whose quality is significantly determined by creativity. For that you need to see things from a different angle and that doesn’t always work with work. If you don’t see your job as something cut off from your life, rather allow for ideas in your free time too, you are effectively carrying out work unconsciously.
And the Company’s View?
The company’s approach was that mathematically you would need a clear 20 percent productivity increase in order to spare one day in five. If you can do without this one day and it increases employee satisfaction at the same time, you’re in a win-win situation. In our company we reduced working hours from 38.5 hours to 36 hours. A cost saving has obviously resulted from this reduction. Further along in the process efficiency and effectiveness should result. At the same time we’re granting enough time for a personal life alongside work, which in turn increases the quality of unconscious work. Through this you are also promoting staff motivation and productivity during the present working hours. Staff well-being is extremely important to me, as the quality of work will also correspond to it.
Do You Have the Impression That You’ve Succeeded Yet?
Definitely. Indeed a multitude of factors played a role for us. We’re just coming out of the transition process from start-up to a young established company. So to start with a few unexpected effects arose from that, primarily because many of us were used to working not only five, but even six days. Actually it turned out that too much free time can also pose a challenge. In sum however, the the job performances over the last months show that ultimately it’s not only working hours that drive results. We’re now certain of that and feel our acceptance of the four-day work week has been affirmed. For most there is still confusion at job interviews: “And what do you do on the fifth day?”
Interview conducted by Anda-Lucia Jagersbacher Msc (WU), CEMS MM, Doctoral student in economic and social sciences at the Institute for Staffing Policy, Karl-Franzens University, Graz.
Image © Bike Citizens