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Four-day work week sees 40 per cent rise in engagement levels, decrease in stress – business owner

The four-day work week has been gaining traction in Europe and one Kiwi business that's tried it says it is having a positive impact here too.

About 20 New Zealand companies have now implemented the shorter week to help Kiwis have a better work-life balance.

Staff still get paid their full salaries.

One of the companies, Perpetual Guardian, says it has seen beneficial results.

"We saw engagement levels go up 40 per cent; work-life balance 50 per cent; stress levels dropped; and more people said they were better able to do their job over four days than five," founder Andrew Barnes says.

"The thing that prompted me doing this was a British survey that said people were only productive for two-and-a-half hours a day, and if you were Canadian, for one-and-a-half hours a day, so effectively, all you have to do is find about 45 minutes of additional productivity a day and you’re square."

Mr Barnes told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, however, that the shortened working week is a "gift" given in exchange for productivity.

"What we do is we say, 'You give us the productivity, we'll gift you a day off.' Now, that makes you think, you know, 'Actually, is spending time on Facebook actually that important?' "

He said the company found that surfing on the top five searched internet sites decreased by 35 per cent.

"You’d have expected a 20 per cent drop, so people are saying, 'I'm going to change how I work,' and that's the secret here."

Mr Barnes said businesses in the UK are "really jumping on the bandwagon" following a recent conference in London.

"The Trades Union Congress have described this as an aspirational policy. The Scottish National Party debated it last week at their conference, and the Labour Party are now investigating putting it in as part of their manifesto.

"We were talking at all levels of both government and corporate, so the UK is moving very rapidly. We're seeing Europe follow suit."

However, Mr Barnes said the country is "going to need to be more flexible in the hours of work" in order to factor in the four-day working week with the gig economy's non-traditional hours. Nine-to-five is out.

"Now, that’s not a problem. Our legislation says, ‘Start time, finish time, normal hours,’ so what companies do to get around that, they give you the gig economy.

"Now, the problem is that that means we are employing young people, mainly, with no superannuation, no holiday pay, no sick pay, no investment in their future, and what I'm saying to the Government here, 'You've got to address this issue. We’ve got to be able to deliver flexibility, but with the hard forethought for protections for employees.'

"If you centre this argument on productivity, that's an argument that business understands, and if business understands that actually, they will get better productivity, better output and their staff will be healthier and happier, that is a strong argument, and that's the best argument and the best way to see this succeed."

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Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes joined Breakfast to discuss why the four-day work week’s taking off here and abroad. Source: Breakfast