Shorter working week is ’good for the soul’

Photo: RNZ/123RF.

Employees who took part in a four-day working week trial said the quality of their lives was immeasurably improved and they still got the job done.

Financial services firm Perpetual Guardian trialled the short working week with its 240 employees over eight weeks earlier this year. They cut their working time to a four-day week but got paid for a full week.

Employees said while they had reservations about how the trial would work, the results were life changing.

Head of information technology, Willem Vandersteen, said he opted to go home early each day to beat the traffic and pick his son up from school.

"I think the greatest moment was the smile on my son's face when I just showed up. He was like, 'Where did you come from? Why aren't you at work Dad?' "

Marina Contreras, from human resources, said she got to spend more time with her husband, who worked weekends.

"It gave us time to talk about really important things. We actually made some key life decisions during that time just because we had a chance to have a real conversation."

Estates team manager Heather Nicol said the trial only worked because each employee was committed to getting the job done.

"I found I did work extra hours during the other four days but I did actually find that I was a lot more focused."

Mixed reaction from a shorter week

Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes said initial concerns that work could not be completed in a 32-hour week were quickly allayed.

"The first reaction is, 'We can't do that, we've got customers to serve. How could we possibly do it?' You might be surprised."

Wellington man Kevin Brennan said while short working week sounded like a good idea it came with problems.

He was involved in a four-day working week programme run at Rotoset Print in Petone nearly 50 years ago, where staff worked four ten-hour days a week.

Mr Brennan said during this time he was more involved with his young family.

"It was really good for the soul and the body that we had this extra day with the family."

But he said while it started off as a bright idea, employees ended up coming in on their days off to meet deadlines.

Mr Brennan said businesses could not realistically implement a four-day week unless they operated in silos.

But the Perpetual Guardian employees said they had to be collaborative and flexible to make it work.

Mr Barnes had passed recommendations onto the board which would consider how if it would implement a shorter working week.


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