The future of work involves a four-day working week, and a new report from Reuters shows that limiting the time employees have to stay in the office actually increases productivity and limits burnout. Could it work in the restaurant industry?
As humans, we’re simply not designed for a five-day week. We’re probably not designed for fulltime work either as for millions of years, work (hunting and gathering) involved intense periods of activity followed by days of resting and laying around. It was a chance for early humans to create social bonds, play with children and procreate. Sound good?
It wasn’t until after the Industrial Revolution that people began to work ungodly hours. Six days a week was the norm with Sunday the traditional Christian day of rest. Henry Ford is credited with ushering in the era of the five-day week, which, at the time was a vast improvement. It was enabled by the standardisation of workflows and the efficiencies of mechanisation.
Now, the working week looks like contracting further. The report suggests that companies that tested the four-day working week found that in increased employee productivity and reduced staff burnout, saving the company money in the long run.
Berlin-based project management software company Planio was among the companies tested and the company founder, Jan Schulz-Hofen, told Reuters that he had implemented a four-day week earlier this year and it had helped staff perform better. He also tested it on himself and saw a difference.
“I didn’t get less work done in four days than in five because in five days, you think you have more time, you take longer, you allow yourself to have more interruptions, you have your coffee a bit longer or chat with colleagues,” he said.
“I realised with four days, I have to be quick, I have to be focused if I want to have my free Friday”
Various companies around the world have found that the four-day week is beneficial. In New Zealand, trust company Perpetual Guardian reported a fall in stress and a jump in staff engagement when they introduced a 32-hour working week.
What does any of this to have with the restaurant industry?
It’s getting harder and harder for chefs to staff their restaurants. 80-hour weeks, burns, stress and lack of work-life balance mean it’s becoming a less and less attractive career option, so something has to be done.
We have seen more and more high-end two and three-star Michelin restaurants reduce the days they are open, and these establishments can afford to pass any expense on to customers. But what of the pinned-to-their-collar restaurant owner struggling against an avalanche of rates, taxes, wages and suppliers to try and serve the best possible food at the best possible price? How can they afford to close their doors 3 days a week?
Last month Paul Kitching of restaurant 21212 in Edinburgh introduced a 4-day week. “This is a tough industry and we thrive on the energy and passion behind our chefs,” said Kitching.
“We are about constant innovation and re-invention of dishes and the creativity needed for this is incredibly important. We believe that by reducing our days that this creativity will grow, and we will be able to push our menu and dishes to another level. I am really looking forward to the future and to see how this change is going to see our restaurant flourish further.”
Sat Bains, a chef in the U.K, has also been testing the four-day-week, admiting that he would personally loose money to push for a better staff working environment and therefore attract more employees.
It remains to be seen how this experiment works out, but Fine Dining Lovers is following closely, and we’ll keep you up to date on how it goes.