Work four days a week, but get paid for five? It sounds too good to be true, but companies around the world that have cut their work week have found 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, though 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 L...

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