Trial of four-day working week an ‘unmitigated success’ for employees’ health

Reduced hours for same pay cut stress levels and boosted commitment

The New Zealand company behind a landmark trial of a four-day working week has concluded it was an unmitigated success, with 78 per cent of employees feeling they were able to successfully manage their work-life balance, an increase of 24 per cent.

Two-hundred-and-forty staff at Perpetual Guardian, a company which manages trusts, wills and estate planning, trialled a four-day working week over March and April, working four, eight-hour days but getting paid for five.

Academics studied the trial before, during and after its implementation, collecting qualitative and quantitative data.

Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes came up with the idea in an attempt to give his employees better work-life balance, and help them focus on the business whilst in the office on company time, and manage life and home commitments on their extra day off.


Jarrod Haar, professor of human resource management at Auckland University of Technology, found job and life satisfaction increased on all levels across the home and work front, with employees performing better in their jobs and enjoying them more than before the experiment. Work-life balance, which reflected how well respondents felt they could successfully manage their work and non-work roles, increased by 24 per cent.

In November last year just over half (54 per cent) of staff felt they could effectively balance their work and home commitments, while after the trial this number jumped to 78 per cent.

Staff stress levels decreased by 7 per cent across the board as a result of the trial, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by 5 per cent.

Dr Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School, said employees' motivation and commitment to work increased because they were included in the planning of the experiment, and played a key role in designing how the four-day week would be managed so as not to negatively impact productivity.

“Employees designed a number of innovations and initiatives to work in a more productive and efficient manner, from automating manual processes to reducing or eliminating non work-related internet usage,” said Delaney.

Andrew Barnes said he would take the results of the trial to the board to open up a discussion on how a four-day work week could be implemented long-term in his company. “If you can have parents spending more time with their children, how is that a bad thing?” asked Barnes, who believes the new work model has the potential to profoundly impact society for the better.

“Are you likely to get fewer mental health issues when you have more time to take care of yourself and your personal interests? Probably . . . if you have fewer people in the office at any one time, can we make smaller offices?”

New Zealand’s workplace relations minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, said the results of the trial were “very interesting” and he was keen to encourage businesses to trial new and improved work models.

“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,” Less-Galloway said.

– Guardian