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A Four-Day Workweek Study Yields Promise

A Four-Day Workweek Study Yields Promise
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Ever wondered what it would be like to only work four out of the five days of the workweek, and yet be paid for all five? Well, one firm in New Zealand gave it a go and found the results to be breathtaking, and not just to the employees either. The management and owner of the New Zealand firm also discovered that the organization did not lose any productivity, ethics or anything else of that nature, either. Here are a few of the results from the experiment.

The Firm: Perpetual Guardian

The New Zealand firm that decided to run the risk, and give its employees a four-day workweek, is called Perpetual Guardian. And these perpetual guardians, who manage trusts, wills, and estates, found that the little change, according to The New York Times, “actually boosted productivity among its 240 employees.” As for the employees themselves, they said that they spent more time doing the things that they loved. Which, of course, included not working.

The experiment

What Perpetual Guardian did was — you guessed it — reduced the workweek from 40 hours down to 32 hours for its employees. The experiment took place from March through April of this year, while two researchers stood by to track and study the results.

Jarrod Haar, who teaches human resources at Auckland University of Technology, told The New York Times that there was a “24 percent improvement in work-life balance, and [employees] came back to work energized after their days off.”

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

Other countries, other experiments

New Zealand is not the only place where experiments of this sort are gaining in popularity. In fact, Sweden found similar results when they switched from an eight-hour to a six-hour workday schedule. Namely, they found that workplace productivity did not only not go down but actually increased. However, France’s experiment with the 35-hour work week back in 2000, according to the businesses themselves, was a failure. They complained of reduced competition and increased hiring costs as the result of their little experiment.

But, with Perpetual Guardian, little time compensations were often put into effect to make up for any possible reductions in work productivity. Things like working with fewer breaks and condensing meetings from two hours down to 30 minutes. “They worked out where they were wasting time and worked smarter, not harder,” Haar told The New York Times.

Mr. Barnes

Andrew Barnes, the founder of Perpetual Guardian, claims that this may very well be the first company to do what Perpetual Guardian is doing. Although other companies have decreased workdays by condensing hours — and some offer less pay for part-time — he believes that none have offered five days’ worth of pay for four days’ worth of work.

Barnes said that he arrived at the idea when he read a report suggesting that workers only were spending a total of three hours of their workday productively working. Another study he discovered — and related to The New York Times — suggested that distractions were as disruptive to workplace productivity as “losing a night’s sleep or smoking marijuana.” On the other hand, if work was based on productivity and not hours, the results seemed to be better.

“A contract should be about an agreed level of productivity,” Barnes added. “If you deliver that in less time, why should I cut your pay?”


Many workers agreed with Barnes’ assessment and admitted that the new workplace made them actually work more and not less time during the day. Senior Client Manager at Perpetual Guardian Tammy Barker, who was part of the study, told The New York Times that she found herself surprised at how frequently she hopped between tasks as she lost focus throughout the week.

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

Perpetual Guardian is now considering making the change permanent. And Iain Lees-Galloway, the New Zealand government’s workplace relations minister, said that “[he] applaud[s] this instance of working smarter and encourage[s] more businesses to take it up.”


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