Opinion

Rachel Smalley: Four-day work week a no-brainer?

There is nothing like an Easter break to make you realise what an extra day or two does for your wellbeing. 

To be fair, Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart have been telling us this for a while now.

They are the Kiwi entrepreneurs who made the world take notice when they launched a four day week with their company, perpetual guardian back in 2018.

They say it's better for everyone, you're more productive, and you have a far greater work-life balance. 

Barnes and Lockhart say if you’re going to adopt a four day week, the first thing everyone needs to accept is that the sole focus of a four-day week is not about having another day off. It’s about getting productive, getting cracking, getting organised, and meeting all of your goals and objectives in four days, instead of five.

That doesn’t mean you race around cramming five days’ work into four, getting stressed, and not knowing how you’re going to get through it all. That defeats the purpose. It just means you work smarter and with three days off a week, you’re incentivized to do that.

If there is an upside to COVID, it is this. It’s helped us reach this point where we can have this conversation. Many of us have moved to a space whereby we know what we have to deliver, and by when, as opposed to a ‘clock in and clock out’ mindset, with a solid hour for lunch and timed breaks along the way. We've matured as employees and employers. COVID has helped us shake off the shackles of the classic 9-5. And it reminds us all of what work-life balance feels like.

It's a given, not every industry or sector can work this way (dairy farmers, I hear you) and hospo and retail would need to employ more staff to cover shortened hours. So it needs more thought for some industries, but it feels to me that there is an inevitability about this. 

The four day week has to happen. 

If you've got children who are under-20, many already consider it odd that we’re expected to work 40 hours a week, as opposed to being employed on a task basis. You're employed to do a job, as opposed to being somewhere for a certain amount of hours. 

I had a look at the four day week website, and it gives you a few tips. If you're thinking about this as an employer, here's what they recommend.

Give your employees time to think about how they might work differently, and to come up with ways to measure their own productivity.

Staff need to think about how they can organize time off within their teams, and still meet customer and business needs. 

And they also recommend starting with a trial. See how it goes and perhaps engage a consultant to measure or evaluate whether it’s a success, or what you could do better. 

It has to happen, surely. Easter always convinces me that every week we work too hard for too long. We need to work smarter. 

And this is what we do know for sure -- if you’ve got more balance in your life, you’ll be a better employee, a better parent, a better human being all round. 

Could you do it - should 'we' do it? Would we all stand to win?