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A 4-Day Work Week Makes Employees More Productive

Is a 4-day work week possible? This New Zealand company thinks so.

Property firm Perpetual Guardian is looking at making their four-day work week experiment permanent after employees were found to be more productive.

The New York Times reports that Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts, wills, and estates; found that the experiment boosted productivity among its 240 employees, who were able to spend more time with their families and on their personal recreation.

Perpetual Guardian reduced their workweek hours to 32 from 40 over March and April this year, with researchers from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) studying the effects.

“Supervisors said staff were more creative, their attendance was better, they were on time, and they didn’t leave early or take long breaks. Their actual job performance didn’t change when doing it over four days instead of five,” said Jarrod Haar, a professor of human resources from AUT.

Haar added that felt an improvement in their work-life balance, and came back to work energized after their days off.

While there were similar experiments in other countries, Perpetual Guardian company founder Andrew Barnes said he believed his company was the first in the world to pay staff for the regular 40 hours while they worked 32.

Other companies allowed employees to work shorter weeks but still compressed the 40 hours, effectively implementing longer days; or allowed part-time work for a reduced salary.

Barnes said he came up with the idea after reading a report that suggested people spent lesser than three hours at work ‘productively employed,’ with another study saying that distractions at work have the same effects on staff as losing a night’s sleep or smoking weed.

He was positive the results of his company’s experiments showed that when hiring staff, supervisors should ‘negotiate tasks to be performed, rather than basing contracts on hours new employees spent in the office,’ the NY Times reported added.

“Otherwise you’re saying, ‘I’m too lazy to figure out what I want from you, so I’m just going to pay you for showing up,’” Barnes said. “A contract should be about an agreed level of productivity,” he added. “If you deliver that in less time, why should I cut your pay?”

Tammy Barker, a senior client manager with the firm, Mr. Barnes’s assessment.

“Because there was a focus on our productivity, I made a point of doing one thing at a time, and turning myself back to it when I felt I was drifting off,” she said. “At the end of each day, I felt I had got a lot more done.”

Haar added that the shift to focusing on productivity rather than just ‘showing up’ allowed employees to see where they were lacking and improve on that.

“They worked out where they were wasting time and worked smarter, not harder,” he said.

Barnes added that his company also saw a drop in their electricity bills, and believes there could be bigger, more positive implications  if the country adopted the same strategy.

“You’ve got 20 percent of cars off the road in rush hour; there are implications for urban design, such as smaller offices,” he said.

Perpetual Guardian’s board will now consider making the change permanent, added the NY Times.

Iain Lees-Galloway, the New Zealand government’s workplace relations minister told NY Times that too many New Zealanders worked overly long hours, and it was “great to see a company finding a better way.”

“I applaud this instance of working smarter and encourage more businesses to take it up,” he said.

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