100:80:100 model: Four-day work week for full pay is the answer for stressed staff

The new landscape of work is far bigger than just home or office.

This year is the 15th anniversary of the publication of Tim Ferriss’s multimillion New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek. The book both delighted and left us confused. We fantasised about the possibility but wondered how we could possibly transition our existing work week into only four hours.

But despite the title, Ferriss commented that it was never about working only four hours a week. Instead, the book shone a light on a work existence that leaves so many despairing.

Rather than waiting till retirement to do the things we wanted, Ferriss showed that it was possible to make changes now so we could both live and work. It was an enticing but unrelatable idea for many at the time.

Even if it seemed impossible, the concept hit a nerve. We imagined what life might look like if it didn’t primarily involve commuting to an office, commuting home again, madly trying to fit in life chores, cooking dinner and then spending just a few minutes with loved ones before going to bed only to start all over again the next day.

Now, after a global pandemic and the seismic shift around work, the enticing alternative Ferriss proposed is now a reality. We can go to Brazil for six months to learn the tango as he once did. But unlike in 2007, we can now do so while keeping our jobs and living in that Instagram perfect villa near the beach.

Amid the global war for talent, the ability to choose where you live, and work is central to the employee value proposition being offered by corporates.

Companies like Airbnb and Atlassian have set remote work policies that only require staff to come to the office quarterly, or even just a few times a year. Staff are encouraged to move to locations that suit their needs and interests, whether for a few months or for good.

The war for talent is no longer just between companies however, entire countries are now getting in on the act, angling for the best talent. Bali has recently introduced a digital nomad visa where you can now live and work in Bali for up to six months (five years under consideration) tax free.

And it isn’t just Indonesia, more than 25 countries or territories have launched digital nomad visas, according to a new Migration Policy Institute report.

Bermuda introduced a Work from Bermuda program two years ago and it has brought more than $28 million dollars into the nation’s economy according to Bermuda’s Ministry of Economy and Labour.

The whole landscape of work has shifted, and research has shown it’s not going back. Employees are voting with their feet, flocking from companies who refuse to embrace the new world of work.

But not everyone wants to work from a far-flung location. And, for a whole host of reasons, not everyone can, even if they want to. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want things to change.

For too many people, work sits somewhere along an unhappy continuum – bored to death or stressed to death. Quite literally.

A study of more than 143,000 participants found those who worked 10 or more hours a day for at least 50 days per year had a 29 per cent greater risk of stroke.

An analysis of 382,000 employee exit interviews found that reports of employee burnout have almost doubled in the past year. It isn’t surprising then that the rise of the anti-work movement is currently the second most popular article on BBC Worklife.

Despite the economic stress and uncertainty, there is a growing sentiment that no job is better than a bad job.

Sitting in the middle of the ‘work from Bali’ and ‘give up work altogether’ trends is the increasing push for a four-day work week.

Once a fledging idea that most thought would stay on the fringes, a large-scale global pilot to test out the four-day work week is currently underway involving organisations from the UK, Australasia, the United States, Canada, Ireland, Europe and South Africa.

While there is a great deal of discussion on what a four-day work week actually means, most organisations in the pilot are adopting the 100:80:100 model. Under this arrangement employees are paid 100 per cent of their pay and can reduce their hours to 80 per cent so long as they continue to maintain 100 per cent of productivity.

The preliminary findings of a six-month pilot program covering 73 organisations in the UK showed that of the 41 companies who responded to questionnaires on their experience of the program, 88 per cent said the shorter week was working “well”; 46 per cent said productivity had stayed the same and 34 per cent said it had “improved slightly”.

A total of 15 per cent of respondents said it had “improved significantly”, while 86 per cent of companies who responded indicated they were “extremely likely” or “likely” to retain a four-day work week after the end of the trial.

What seems certain is that our definition of work is evolving. For many people, the pandemic changed their concept of success and their ambition related to their careers.

And in a world where an all-time high of 75 per cent of companies reporting difficulties in hiring, a world of work that includes the ability to work a four-day week or from a remote location seems certain to expand.

Dr Libby Sander is an assistant professor in organisational behaviour at Bond University

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