'This is not a crazy idea any more': Are we on the precipice of a four-day working week revolution? – Stuff


Charlotte Lockhart​ says she no longer feels like the “crazy woman in the room”.
As the chief executive of Four Day Week Global, Lockhart​ has been promoting the idea of working fewer hours a week at full salary since 2018.
But growing interest in the concept from both businesses and workers, alongside academic research showing clear benefits of the programme was making the concept mainstream, she said.
“This is not a crazy idea any more. Businesses are starting to understand two things. One, that this idea is possible, and two, that it is something they will need to do if they want to attract staff,” Lockhart​ said.
A high profile study from Unilever, in which staff worked four days a week for full salary found a 67% increase in employee happiness, while productivity skyrocketed.
In a trial of 70 organisations in the UK, 86% said they were “extremely likely” to continue the programme after the trial had ended. Similar trials were ongoing in South Africa and Ireland.
“There are so many governments around the world that are looking at this as a proper work stream that New Zealand is going to have to keep up. We are a global workforce, if we want New Zealand to be a great place to work, we need to look seriously at the four-day week,” she said.
The Employer’s and Manufacturers Association (EMA) said interest in the four-day week was rising fast.
EMA adviser John Bradbury​ said interest began when employers noticed workers wanted flexibility after the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“It is now at the point that if an employer is not offering flexibility they are seriously risking losing staff,” Bradbury​ said.
Every recruiter in the country was fielding questions from workers about workplace flexibility, and in response employers were looking closely at the four-day week, he said.
The interest is being seen across many industries including tech companies, not-for-profit organisations and construction businesses.
Blind and Low Vision New Zealand has operated using a four-day week since January. Business services general manager Mark Dickinson​ said the results were “epic”.
“It is great for the employees to have a fixed day of during the week that they can use to do other stuff. But it also makes it easier for the business as there is less time off taken for smaller non-work tasks,” Dickinson​ said.
Workers were assigned different days of the week off based on their preferred choice, and the day assigned was changed every six months, he said.
They could choose to work either four full working days, or five six-hour days, both at full pay.
“When people got used to it, they suddenly prioritised their time. Meetings were shortened, tasks were completed faster, and productivity lifted in general.
“Once the fifth day is eliminated the impact is amazing,” he said.
Council of Trade Unions economist and policy director Craig Renney​ said the four-day week had the potential to be a game changer, and wanted to see a mass pilot programme.
“The biggest problem is our culture. When we talk about a four-day week we talk about it in hushed tones, like we are being slightly cheeky for asking for it. But this is genuinely a perfectly reasonable and sensible business decision,” Renney​ said.
It is also something that may help New Zealand lift its game on a global stage, he said.
Currently, New Zealand employees worked the longest hours in the OECD, three weeks longer a year than the average OECD worker.
But for all of those extra work, productivity was extremely low. The average output per hour in the OECD was $87, for New Zealand it was just $67, he said.
But a four-day week could change that, Renney​ said, pointing to a trial at Microsoft Japan which resulted in a 40% increase in productivity.
“If working harder solved our productivity problems, it would have worked by now. What we need to do is to work smarter. A four-day week is one way to sharpen the value labour and the cost of work,” he said.
Before Henry Ford created the five-day working week for his factory workers, the standard work week was six days.
A four-day work week may be the next step in a “natural evolution” of work, he said.
© 2022 Stuff Limited

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