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Reflections on No-Work Wednesdays

The ABC this week reported that an Australian company’s experiment in doing no work on Wednesdays had “gone global“. According to the article, employees continue to work 37.5 hours per week, but in two blocks of two days instead of the traditional five-day block. “Gone global” seems to mean that the experiment has attracted interest in Britain (thanks to a report from the BBC) without anybody else actually taking up the idea.

The company involved, a “digital agency” known as Versa, says that revenue has increased 30 or 40 percent since the change. It’s not obvious to me how doing no work one day a week would affect the level of demand for Versa’s services, and with only one year’s data it seems at least as likely that the increase in revenue is due to some other factor. But Versa also says that staff satisfaction and productivity had increased, and these seem more plausibly related to the change in working hours.

The article concludes with the observation that, though many other companies have implemented four-day weeks, rostered days off, and so on, most of them choose Friday as their day off. (I myself once had every second Monday off when working at an organisation that implemented nine-day fortnights.) Versa’s CEO makes the point that closing on Wednesday had the advantage of encouraging workers to treat Friday as a normal workday rather than the day on which everything wound down (hence, presumably, some of the increase in productivity).

Personally, I don’t find the prospect of working nine-hour days all that appealling, even if there are only four of them; in my previous jobs I’ve found my energy levels flagging after six or seven hours in the office (with a break for lunch). And though I like the idea of having some time off mid-week in which it is possible to go shopping, attend medical appointments, and so on, obviously this won’t quite work out if everyone has Wednesday off (there being no shops or doctors to visit in this case). Perhaps assigning 1/5 of organisations (or workers) to each day of the week would be more practical from a society-wide point of view. But it’s an experiment worth paying attention to anyway.

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