A New Zealand business that trialed a four-day working week for its employees has concluded that the initiative was a massive success, with a 24% increase in a healthy work-life balance.
Perpetual Guardian, a firm which manages trusts, wills, and estate planning for its clients, allowed its 240 staff to work four eight-hour days during March and April, but still get paid for five. Boss Andrew Barnes launched the initiative in the hope of giving employees better focus when at the office, and more time to manage home commitments.
Analysis of the trial by academics proved that he was on to something. Staff stress levels decreased by 7%, and their overall life satisfaction increased by 5%. Senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School, Helen Delaney, commented that employee motivation and commitment increased, thanks to staff being involved in the planning of the experiment and developing several initiatives to ensure that productivity didn’t take a nosedive.
Iain Lees-Galloway, New Zealand’s workplace relations minister, said, ‘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’.
Needless to say, the trial picked up quite a lot of media interest, with plenty of people concluding that the current accepted ways of working might not be the best approach. Of course though, most of us are probably biased… Who doesn’t like the idea of having an extra day added to the weekend?
Still though, it’s provides some interesting food for thought for business owners. Could more time off encourage staff to take better care of their wellbeing, thus lessening the impact of mental health issues? If less staff are at the office at any given time, could that cut down the need for bigger office spaces, slashing costs in the process? And is the 5-day working week something that we accept as a norm for no other reason than that it’s all we’ve ever really known? These are all questions that forward-thinking leaders are likely to be asking themselves as they examine the findings.
Whilst it’s not the kind of initiative you can roll out without very careful planning – and there’s no denying that in some businesses, operational requirements would mean that it just wouldn’t be a viable option – the findings of the trial will no doubt encourage business owners to consider how they might rethink their practices.
Where do you stand on the issue, and would you ever look at trying something similar for your own staff?