The New Zealand company behind a landmark trial of a four-day working week has declared it a success and will be adopting the new schedule full time.
Two-hundred-and-forty staff at Perpetual Guardian, a company which manages trusts, wills and estate planning, trialled a four-day working week over March and April this year, working four, eight-hour days but getting paid for five.
Academics who studied the trial found 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.
Perpetual Guardian’s founder, Andrew Barnes, said staff could choose whether to opt into a four-day week, and lawyers had been consulted to ensure the new system would abide by New Zealand employment law and conditions.
Workers who chose not to opt into the four-day week would still be offered flexible options such as starting or finishing early to avoid traffic congestion or manage their childcare commitments.
Barnes initially undertook the trial after observing how much pressure some of his staff were under to manage their personal and professional lives.
Barnes wondered if having an extra day to manage their home life would make his staff more focused and productive in the office – and data and anecdotal evidence has proven his theory an unequivocal success.
“For us, this is about our company getting improved productivity from greater workplace efficiencies … there’s no downside for us,” he said.
“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.”
New Zealand’s workplace relations minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, described the findings of the four-day work week as “very interesting”, and said he was keen to work with businesses exploring new models for the modern-day office.
Data was collected by two New Zealand academics before and after the trial period. In November last year just over half of staff (54%) felt they could balance their work and home commitments, while after the trial this number jumped to 78%.
Staff stress levels decreased by seven percentage points across the board as a result of the trial, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by five percentage points.