Our 4 Day-Week initiative sparks a global Flexible Working conversation


 — July 27th, 2018

Our 4 Day-Week initiative sparks a global Flexible Working conversation

Earlier this year, New Zealand entrepreneur Andrew Barnes launched an initiative that made headlines around the world: he told his staff he was going to trial a 4-day working week with 5 days pay. Last week he revealed it had been an outstanding success and here he tells Poppulo what it's been like:

I initiated the Four Day Work Week trial at Perpetual Guardian as a simple conversation with my staff, and it has turned into a conversation with the business world – literally.

From CNN, BBC, People, New York Times and Fortune, to business news outlets across the globe, we have seen the Four Day Work Week trial featured by media in 20-plus countries.

Reshaping the future of work

The initiative has captured imaginations about what is possible by innovating everyday processes and we have enjoyed seeing and reading the thoughts of various global business leaders and commentators. In fact, it has turned into a meaningful conversation with staff around how to reshape the future of their work.

Our team has received interest and inquiries from businesses all over the world on how to make this work in their own organization.

We have spreadsheets of companies that have approached us through the 4dayweek.co.nz website and are actively engaging and sharing insights with these businesses to help them understand how to implement this themselves based on our trial and research outcomes.

It’s been astonishing and not something we had expected. Most people who know me know that I like change projects and challenging the status quo. I also like projects that make the world a better place.

Leadership style

I picked up more of my leadership style from the military (which, in my view, displays some of the best practices in the world) than I did from university. I learned the value of a team and the necessity of looking after the person on either side of you in a difficult and dangerous situation.

As the only businessman in a family of artists, I don’t approach business from the perspective of numbers – but rather, from images and ideas.

This mixture of art and the military means that I admire leaders such as Sir Winston Churchill (the ultimate orator), Sir Ernest Shackleton (the ultimate motivator) and Nelson Mandela (the ultimate conciliator).

I'm very excited about the fact that my gut instinct was right. The research shows us that it is possible to do a four-day work week and have productivity remain high. My team did a great job with the challenge of finding ways to keep up their productivity while spending less time in the office.

So to recap, at the beginning of February I announced (see video here) to the staff at Perpetual Guardian that starting at the beginning of March I wanted to disconnect productivity from hours in the office and wanted them to only come to work four days of the week but I would still pay them for five. With no extra hours worked on their four days.

This gave them all time to find ways to create flexibility within their teams and find workable solutions to everyday problems which held up their ability to be as productive as possible.

Managing teams in a more engaging way

This gave the management team time to review how they could better measure productivity within their teams, and look at their own work practices so they could also take time away from the office. One of the benefits of the trial is that it really pushed my leaders to manage their teams in a more engaging and thorough way.

We ran an eight-week trial between March and April 2018, and unsurprisingly the staff loved it. In the interests of openness and to ensure independent analysis, we engaged two of New Zealand's top researchers to run projects alongside our trial to properly measure the results.

We had Dr. Helen Delaney from the University of Auckland Business School handle the qualitative piece and Professor Jarrod Haar from Auckland University of Technology was charged with the quantitative research.

The results were startling. Not surprising, work-life balance improved, stress (and interestingly, perceived workloads) dropped, whilst scores for leadership, commitment, stimulation, and empowerment increased by more than 40%.

CEOs out there, you can do this too

I am therefore challenging all other CEOs out there – start your own trial. You can review our research, ask me questions, but in the end, it is just a trial.

You too can work out how to make your place a better work environment through your own trial and letting your teams help you find the solutions.

Your worst-case scenario is that you will gain a more engaged, committed and energized workforce.

Part of my vision was to be world-leading and play our part in making New Zealand genuinely the best place to work and live – and I believe that all businesses across the globe can play their part to make our world a better place.

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