New Zealand firm tries 4-day work week, finds resounding success

Marco Green
July 22, 2018

"The benefits from this are far wider than people actually appreciate".

"What happens is you get a motivated, energized, stimulated, loyal work force", he said.

Barnes says it's important not to take the Perpetual Guardian trial as a blueprint for the application of a four-day week across every business, pointing out that this exact approach won't work across every business type and that managers should find an appropriate balance.

Harr, the human resources professor, says that a four-day week would be hard where employees are already overworked.

The researchers saw an increase in staff satisfaction and engagement along with a desire to keep working with the company longer, with no drop in output recorded. They also enjoyed their time at work more, and were more productive. Meetings were reduced from 2 hours to 30 minutes, and "employees created signals for their colleagues that they needed time to work without distraction".

Perpetual said productivity had increased 20 per cent, and staff were more engaged and enthusiastic. The team reported feeling less stressed and expressed more satisfaction with their lives.

In November past year just over half (54%) of staff felt they could effectively balance their work and home commitments, while after the trial this number jumped to 78%. This, according to those conducting the study, increased their commitment and motivation to work.

"The challenging part would probably be areas like healthcare where unfortunately, you know, people show up to hospitals seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and we can't kind of control that", Harr conceded on NZR.

Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School, noted that employees were included in the planning process to ensure that productivity did not dip.

Even if you have to mark papers or chase up hospital referral letters on your day off, that still beats working five days and through the weekend.

Mr Barnes said now the trial has wrapped-up and the results are in, he would like to see the initiative become a company norm.

Barker, a mother of two who lives in Auckland, said she spent her day off each week running personal errands, attending appointments and shopping for groceries, which allowed her to spend more time with her family on weekends.

"Employment law is rightly about protecting the rights of workers and people are anxious that if you start changing the dynamics of a working week that might lead to people having to do more in less time and that it could lead to job losses", Barnes says. No wonder the New Zealand experiment has touched a nerve. The workplace relations minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, said that the study was "very interesting" and added: "I'm really keen to work with any businesses that are looking at how they can be more flexible for their staff and how they can look to improve productivity whilst working alongside their staff and protecting terms and conditions". In challenging numerous rules and norms that have been established and fought for by the unions, we risk unravelling the protections that have ensured businesses don't take advantage of their staff. The extra day could be used for education.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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