15 Apr 2024

Nine-day working fortnight sees productivity increase for Cambridge business

5:03 pm on 15 April 2024
People at work, office work, casual attire generic image.

Photo: Unsplash

Implementing a nine-day working fortnight has seen productivity improve and happier staff, the co-founder of an engineering consultancy company says.

Cambridge company Te Miro Water has been trialling the nine-day fortnight for the past year.

It saw staff at the business, which focused on flood hazards and stormwater modelling for local councils and private developers, get a three-day weekend every other week.

Co-founder Britta Jensen told Afternoons staff were still paid for the 10 days although they only worked nine of them.

The idea stemmed when Jensen and her business partner started the company. They wanted to work less days themselves and put more value on outputs.

"When we started doing it, we realised how much happier we were to come to work each day and then we thought if we were so happy, the rest of our staff would be really happy as well."

Jensen said she researched the idea of a shorter working week and how giving people more time away from work and ability to do other activities helped produce better outcomes in a person's working life.

The trial's success had been judged by looking at productivity, value of the work being put out and the general happiness, satisfaction and enthusiasm the 15-person team had coming to work.

Jensen said she was concerned at first that staff would be more stressed, trying to jam an extra day's work into the four-day week.

But instead, there was a "buzz and energy" in the office on the shorter weeks, and everyone was really focused knowing they would get a day off as a reward at the end of it.

"Everybody knows that there's some parts of your day when you come to work and you actually don't produce much," Jensen said.

"You're sort of just sitting at work and you're finding it hard to be motivated and keep things going, but just knowing that you have your one day off definitely changes the way your mind thinks."

Clients had not expressed any issue with not being able to reach staff on those Fridays off, Jensen said.

Instead, they seemed "quite envious", having not seen any changes in the outcomes provided.

Clients felt the energy and happiness from the team which "makes them quite happy as well".

4 Day Week Global, a company that trialled four-day work weeks, found productivity increased.

In 2022, New Zealand co-founder Andrew Barnes told RNZ higher than 100 percent productivity was seen and employees were happier.

Andrew Barnes, Perpetual Guardian founder

Andrew Barnes. Photo: Supplied

"We're very strict about it. We run the 100-80-100 rule - 100 percent five-day pay, 80 percent five-day time - provided we get 100 percent of five-day productivity, that's our model. It's not about cramming 40 hours into four days.

"Once you eliminate a lot of the busyness that impacts companies and employees, you find that actually productivity goes up. So on average across the thousands of companies around the world that have implemented this, they are seeing productivity gains ... 15 to 40 percent."

Construction software company Conqa trialled the four-day work week in 2022. Its success meant it remained implemented to this day.

Founder and chief operating officer Barney Chunn said the construction tech start-up used the Perpetual Guardian 100-80-100 method.

"We found that the space it gave our team to do what they need to do away from work, meant we we're having really productive, really positive work weeks, where we were getting as much if not more done than before, and with a really high quality of output."

In 2022, Conqa product manager Damen Hansen told RNZ feedback was positive but challenges had popped up.

"There was a lot of toing and froing that we had to work out, of 'okay - if we are working four days, we still have customers to support, we still have our sales and delivery team'... How do we actually change our business model to ensure that people can be at the right place in the right time."

He said getting the team used to the new hours was not an easy job, but changes had made the team happier and helped attract new talent to the business.

"The calibre and the numbers of good candidates jumped when we made this known on our blog. It just took a massive leap," Hansen said.

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