Four-day work week anyone?

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REUTERS/Joe Skipper

BERLIN (Reuters) – Work four days a week, but get paid for five?

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It sounds too good to be true, but companies around the world that have cut their work week have found that it leads to higher productivity, more motivated staff and less burnout.

“It is much healthier and we do a better job if we’re not working crazy hours,” said Jan Schulz-Hofen, founder of Berlin-based project management software company Planio, who introduced a four-day week to the company’s 10-member staff earlier this year.

In New Zealand, insurance company Perpetual Guardian reported a fall in stress and a jump in staff engagement after it tested a 32-hour week earlier this year.

Even in Japan, the government is encouraging companies to allow Monday mornings off, although other schemes in the workaholic country to persuade employees to take it easy have had little effect.

Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) is pushing for the whole country to move to a four-day week by the end of the century, a drive supported by the opposition Labour party.

The TUC argues that a shorter week is a way for workers to share in the wealth generated by new technologies like machine learning and robotics, just as they won the right to the weekend off during the industrial revolution.

“It would reduce the stress of juggling working and family life and could improve gender equality. Companies that have already tried it say it’s better for productivity and staff wellbeing,” said TUC economic head Kate Bell.

Lucie Greene, trends expert at consultancy J. Walter Thompson, said there was a growing backlash against overwork, underlined by a wave of criticism after Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”

“People are starting to take a step back from the 24-hour digital life we have now and realize the mental health issues from being constantly connected to work,” Ms Greene said.

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