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article imageNew Zealand company declares four-day work week trial a success

By Ken Hanly     Oct 9, 2018 in Business
Auckland - Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand business that manages trusts, wills, and estate planning, claims that its trial of a four-day work week over March and April this year was a success. The company will be adopting the new schedule full time.
Academics found positive results from reduced work week
About 250 staff members in the company chose the four-day week of eight hour days. They still got paid for five. The reduced work week was voluntary. Those workers who did not opt in were able to start or finish early in order to avoid traffic congestion or take care of child care commitments. The company checked to ensure that their trial conformed to New Zealand labor laws.
Academics who studied the trial found that staff at the firm's offices around the country reported lower stress levels, higher levels of job satisfaction and an improved sense of work-life balance.
Two New Zealand academics collected data before and after the trial period. In November last year, just over half of the staff (54 percent) felt they could balance work and home commitments. After the trial this number jumped to 78 percent. Stress levels decreased by seven percentage points during the trial. Stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly. Overall life satisfaction increased by five percent.
Founder aimed to increase productivity
Andrew Barnes, the founder of Perpetual Guardian, initially undertook the trial after observing the pressure that some of his workers were under to manage their personal and professional lives. He thought that if workers had an extra day to sort out issues to do with their home life then they would be more productive and focused at work. As you can see on the appended video Barnes had been reading reports that showed much time during the working day was unproductive.
Barnes said: “For us, this is about our company getting improved productivity from greater workplace efficiencies … there’s no downside for us. The right attitude is a requirement to make it work – everyone has to be committed and take it seriously for us to create a viable long-term model for our business.”
Workers were involved in constructing the new system
Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School, claimed employees’ motivation and commitment to work increased since they were included in the planning of the experiment. Employees played a key role in designing how the four-day week would be managed so as not to negatively impact productivity.
Delaney pointed out: “Employees designed a number of innovations and initiatives to work in a more productive and efficient manner, from automating manual processes to reducing or eliminating non-work-related internet usage,” So this was not just a top down imposition on the employees. Barnes allowed his employees an active role in designing the new system.
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