Companies experiment with four-day workweek, but expert says employers should go even further

Companies experiment with four-day workweek, but expert says employers should go even further

A group of New Zealand companies will start testing a four-day workweek next week, but one expert says employers should go even further with flexible work arrangements.

Starting on Monday, August 1, 20 companies from a variety of industries will test a four-day workweek as part of a pilot study in New Zealand and Australia.

The study is carried out by 4 Day Week Global, which has conducted similar pilots in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The foundation was founded after Andrew Barnes, head of trust firm Perpetual Guardian, implemented a four-day week for its 240 employees in 2018 and saw productivity increase by 20%.

Following this success, the 4 Day Week Global foundation was launched to research the benefits of the practice in business globally.

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The August test is the first time the foundation has researched the impacts of a four-day week on a range of businesses in Australia and New Zealand.

The 20 companies involved in the test come from a variety of industries, including construction, software, digital marketing, law firms, finance and healthcare.

4 Day Week Global co-founder Charlotte Lockhart said the variety of participating sectors is a sign of the high level of interest in the workforce.

4 Day Week Global co-founder Charlotte Lockhart says companies in the construction, SaaS, digital marketing, law firms, finance and healthcare industries will participate in the trial.

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4 Day Week Global co-founder Charlotte Lockhart says companies in the construction, SaaS, digital marketing, law firms, finance and healthcare industries will participate in the trial.

“New Zealand is slow to the pandemic, so we’ve also been slow to adapt to post-Covid work strategies,” Lockhart said.

While European governments were eager to test a four-day week and funded companies to test the concept, the New Zealand government was slow, she said.

“In New Zealand, the government just didn’t support the idea, which is a little disappointing, especially considering the concept started with a New Zealand business. But we are hopeful that we can start to get better traction once we have the support of global research,” she said.

Data from the 4 Day Week Global New Zealand and Australian pilot will be used in research by the University of Queensland School of Economics and the University of Sydney Business School.

But flexible working expert Gillian Brookes said New Zealand’s business can go beyond a four-day workweek.

Brookes said the international trend of job-sharing, where two or more people share a role usually performed by one person, could be a game-changer for the way New Zealanders work.

“For many people, full-time is not feasible, but the role is larger than what could be completed part-time. If companies were open to job-sharing, the benefits would be enormous, especially in accelerating diversity in the workplace,” Brookes said.

Gillian Brookes, an expert on flexible working, says the international job-sharing trend could be a game-changer for New Zealand companies.

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Gillian Brookes, an expert on flexible working, says the international job-sharing trend could be a game-changer for New Zealand companies.

The UK civil service was an advocate of job-sharing and found that the system encouraged employee retention and employees’ ability to maintain career development rather than lifestyle changes, she said.

“With the cost of living at a 30-year high, if we don’t start doing something different for the workforce, things are going to get very painful for a lot of people.

“A shorter week and ideas like job sharing are what employers need to think about as alternatives to our low-productivity, long-hour culture.”

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