Four-day work week called 'resounding success' after New Zealand company's experiment

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- A company that temporarily gave all of its employees a four-day work week with no reduction in pay now says the experiment was a resounding success.

Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based estate planning company, had all of its 240 employees work four-day weeks over an eight-week period in March and April. The company hired two academic researchers -- Dr. Helen Delaney of the University of Auckland Business School and Prof. Jarrod Haar of the Auckland University of Technology -- to measure the experiment's impact on a variety of factors like productivity, employee stress levels and work-life balance.

The company announced this week that the trial brought improvements across the board: work-life balance, engagement, organizational commitment and work stimulation all climbed while stress levels fell when compared to pre-trial measurements.

Harr, a professor of human resource management, noted that Perpetual Guardian overperformed in most metrics even before the four-week trial. Post-trial, he said the improved numbers were "easily the highest I have seen" compared to national statistics.

Delaney added that employees felt more empowered and innovated so that they could work more productively over the course of the trial. Notably, employees reduced internet usage not related to work.

Amid the myriad improvements, one important metric stood out from the rest.

"Our leadership team reported that there was broadly no change in company outputs pre and during the trial," Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes said. "They perceived no reduction in job performance and the survey data showed a marginal increase across most teams."

Beyond the benefits seen in the workplace, Barnes said there could be wider implications should the four-day work week be more widely adopted.

"If you can take 20 percent of people off the roads every day, what does that mean? If you have fewer people in the office at any one time, can we make smaller offices? If people work more efficiently or remotely, coming to the office less frequently, what does that mean for urban design?" he asked.

Despite the success, Perpetual Guardian's four-day work week isn't becoming permanent quite yet. Though Barnes called the outcome "promising," he said his team was in the process of determining ways to implement the compressed work week "where appropriate."

"The learnings and challenges that were uncovered as part of the trial raise a number of questions that we will work through to ensure we address areas that need improvement or further innovation in order to increase flexibility and productivity," he said.
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