A group of New Zealand businesses will begin trialling a four-day working week next week, but one expert says employers should go even further with flexible working arrangements.
From Monday, August 1, 20 businesses across a range of industries will trial a four-day working week as part of a pilot study in New Zealand and Australia.
The study is run by 4 Day Week Global, which has run similar pilots in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Spain and the UK.
The foundation was founded after Andrew Barnes, head of trust company Perpetual Guardian, implemented a four-day week for his 240 staff in 2018, and saw productivity increase 20%.
Following this success, the 4 Day Week Global foundation was launched to research the benefits of the practice in businesses globally.
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The August trial is the first time the foundation has researched impacts of a four-day week on a range of businesses in Australia and New Zealand.
The 20 businesses involved in the trial come from a variety of industries, including construction, software, digital marketing, law firms, finance and health.
4 Day Week Global co-founder Charlotte Lockhart said the range of industries taking part was a sign of the high level of interest in the workforce.
4 Day Week Global co-founder Charlotte Lockhart says businesses across the construction, SaaS, digital marketing, law firms, finance and health industries will take part in the trial.
“New Zealand is slow to the pandemic, so we have also been slow to adapt to post-Covid workplace strategies,” Lockhart said.
While European governments were eager to trial a four day week, and funded businesses to trial the concept, the New Zealand government had been slow, she said.
“In New Zealand the government has just not backed the idea, which is a little disappointing, especially considering the concept started with a New Zealand business. But we are hopeful that we can start to get better traction once we have the backing of global research,” she said.
The data from the 4 Day Week Global New Zealand and Australian pilot will be used in research from the University of Queensland School of Economics and the University of Sydney Business School.
But expert in flexible working Gillian Brookes said New Zealand business could go further than a four-day working week.
Brookes said the international trend of job sharing, where two or more people split up a role usually done by one person, could be a game changer for the way New Zealanders work.
“For a lot of people full time is not feasible, but the role is bigger than could be completed in part-time hours. If businesses were open to job sharing the benefits are huge, especially in its acceleration of diversity in a workplace,” Brookes said.
Gillian Brookes, flexible working expert says the international trend of job sharing could be a game changer for New Zealand businesses.
The UK civil service had been a champion of job sharing, and found the system encouraged staff retention, and the ability for employees to maintain career development over lifestyle changes, she said.
“With cost of living at a 30 year-high, if we don’t start doing something different for a workforce things are going to get very painful for a lot of people.
“A shorter week and ideas like job sharing are what employers need to think about as alternatives to our long hours low productivity culture.”