Kiwi business hails four-day work week trial

The AM Show 18/07/2018

A four-day working week sounds like a dream for most, but for some lucky Kiwi employees it's become a reality.

New Zealand trust company, Perpetual Guardian, has been trialling four-day working weeks for employees since March this year, without changing the salary or making working days longer.

In February, founder Andrew Barnes told The AM Show he predicted his 200-strong team would have the same output, and was confident staff would be more productive knowing they have more time off.

We're all conditioned to think you've got to spend five days in the office.

Mr Barnes returned to The AM Show on Wednesday, hailing the results of the trial as "really exciting". He said staff productivity levels were up, stress levels were down, and customer engagement levels with the company went up over 30 percent.

His staff were asked before the trial to explain how they planned to maintain their work output despite spending less time in the office, and then develop a plan. Most companies just tell staff what to do, but Mr Barnes says he didn't want to do that.

"This is bottom-up engagement; it makes the staff more engaged, more empowered, and more enthused about the whole thing," he said, highlighting that staff aren't expected to work more hours so long as they can produce their work on time.

One of the challenges of the change is at the leadership level, Mr Barnes said, because "everybody in leadership says it's never going to work, so they approach it with a bit of scepticism. We're all conditioned to think you've got to spend five days in the office."

Interestingly, he said staff initially struggled with the extra day off and had to adjust to it. But stress levels eventually dropped "quite significantly", despite staff knowing they had to meet their targets with less time spent in the office.

Mr Barnes said he's putting recommendations to the company's board next week, with the hope that the scheme will continue. The company generated about the same amount of revenue during the trial period, he said, and costs were down, with people spending less time in traffic and less time using power in the office.

Mr Barnes says the trial isn't about how much time off people should get, but rather about productivity and how it can be achieved. He said the company pays staff to get a job done, and it shouldn't matter if they're able to do it in two days, three days or four days - as long as it's done well.

The extra day off for staff is a gift, Mr Barnes said, and they work hard to maintain the privilege. He says every company in New Zealand should give the scheme a go.

He's optimistic the scheme will continue to be a success.

Watch the full interview with Andrew Barnes above.

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