Kiwi firm experiments with four-day working week

Perpetual Guardian's six-week trial saw an overall improvement in workforce productivity.
By: | July 23, 2018

A New Zealand company has declared its six-week trial of a four-day work week to be an unmitigated success.

Perpetual Guardian, a trust company, launched the trial on March 5 this year for more than 200 people in their New Zealand offices.

Working hours for the four working days were not increased, nor was compensation reduced – employees were merely given a free day off every week, in addition to the weekend.

“Now it is up to each team to work smarter and change processes to raise their productivity – and potentially make the four-day week permanent,” said the company, in a statement announcing the trial.

“If employees are engaged with their job and employer, they are more productive. We believe efficiency will come with more staff focus and motivation, and this trial is a valuable and timely way to test our theories,” added Christine Brotherton, the firm’s Head of People and Capability, at the launch of the trial earlier this year.

Jarrod Haar, professor of human resource management at Auckland University of Technology, was one of the academics brought on to study data from the trial. He found that job and life satisfaction increased both at work and at work. Following the trial, more employees were also confident of balancing work and life commitments (78% versus 54%).

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.

“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,” she said.

Reportedly, despite working hours going down by 20%, productivity went up by almost a third.

The company will now be looking into options to expand the trial into a more permanent arrangement.

“What we’ve seen is a massive increase in engagement and staff satisfaction about the work they do, a massive increase in staff intention to continue to work with the company and we’ve seen no drop in productivity,” said company boss Andrew Barnes.

“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,” said New Zealand’s Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, adding that the country’s “Employment Relations Act already allows for flexibility in work time”.