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I Approached My Boss With An Unheard Of Request: A Four-Day Work Week

When Finland's prime minister proposed the four-day work week, her idea was branded 'radical' -- but insiders believe it could be exactly what Australia needs to boost productivity and happiness.

34-year-old Sanna Marin is a prime minister like we've never seen before, and her vision for Finland may be what we need here in Australia. The world's youngest sitting prime minister took office one short month ago, and is already pushing for large-scale change.

Before she was elected, Ms Marin previously called for Finland to introduce flexible working schedules that could involve four-day work weeks, with six-hour-long work days.

The social democrat has long been a supporter of minimising the traditional work week. And while it's not on the Finnish Government's agenda just yet, many are hoping the now-prime minister will revisit the proposal while in office.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Image: Getty

“I believe people deserve to spend more time with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life, such as culture,” she stated at a conference in late 2019.

This could be the next step for us in working life.

A three-day weekend sounds alluring to the best of us, but the move has been widely criticised. Many have argued that by cutting down on our work hours, our productivity levels will also plummet.

But according to statistics, studies, and those who have actually tried it, the four-day work week may be precisely what the doctor ordered to help us unlock our most productive selves.

Melbourne woman Sarah Nally was 24-years-old when she approached her boss with an unheard of request. For no less pay and no more workload, she would work only four days a week.

Melbourne's Sarah Nally is a big believer in the four-day work week. Image: Supplied

Surprisingly, they agreed. Allowing the young employee to prove she could accomplish the expectations of a nine-to-five role within a significantly reduced time frame. And the benefits were remarkable.

"I had huge bouts of creative energy," Nally told 10 daily.

"I used my time off to read, to help my friend out from time to time with her newborn baby so she could nap or have a shower, I volunteered for the Starlight Foundation, and I started researching all sorts of things that fascinated me."

Years later, Nally now works in the career coaching industry and owns her own business Wonder & Wander. She remains a proud advocate for the benefits of flexible work hours.

"I haven't worked full time for over 10 years now," she said.

"In my experience, the productivity of the team soars when people are given the time and space to manage their on time. A four day work week means when people are at work, they work. They then have more energy not only for work, but more importantly for their friends and family."

Workaholics are so 1980s'.

Nally's own history working a four-day week speaks to its ability to slot in well with the Australian lifestyle. But even beyond her own experience, the research talks.

Last year for the entire month of August, Microsoft trialed a four-day work week at it's Japan offices. The tech company gave its employees five consecutive Fridays off, without reducing their income.

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Microsoft Trials Four-Day Working Week, Productivity Skyrockets

Microsoft Japan trialled a four-day working week and found employee productivity boosted by a whopping 40 percent.

The experiment was a huge success. They detected an astonishing 40 per cent increase in productivity. And their workers, who admitted to feeling happier, took 25 per cent less time off during the trial.

The six-hour work day has also seen a positive response around the world. A study at an elderly care facility in Sweden's Gothenburg investigated the impact a reduced work day could have on nurses - a notoriously stressful profession.

The Swedish study's initial intention was not to track employee well-being, rather the potential reduction in productivity caused by the six-hour workday: they found the opposite.

The nurses took fewer sick days and work absences, and reported that they were happier, healthier and more energetic throughout the trial. It sounds too good to be true, and some Australian business owners have argued that it is.

Is the Australian work week due for a shake up? Image: Getty

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox told the Sydney Morning Herald that any reduction to our country's 38-hour work week "would be very damaging for jobs, investment and productivity."

The conversation surrounding the four-day work week is contentious to say the least. There is overwhelming evidence on its effectiveness internationally, and an increasing number of Australians like Sarah Nally are coming forward to sing it's praises on a local level.

We're not to know how compatibly the four-day work week fits into Australia's image of our 'Hard Yaka work ethic'. But it will be interesting to watch whether developments in Finland have the power to shake up the status quo in Australia.

Featured Image: Getty