The dream of a four-day work week is no longer unthinkable.

Date Added: May 26, 2020 05:29:24 AM
Author: Sutra Web Directory
Category: Business & Services

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged people to consider four-day work weeks.

The dream of a four-day work week is no longer unthinkable.

But could it actually be a panacea for a country looking to rebuild a post-corona economy?

That idea recently got a boost when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern floated it, as a way to help the country as it reopens following the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it may not be as far-fetched as it would have seemed just a few months ago, before the shutdowns, which brought Canada, New Zealand and many countries around the world to a standstill.

“This is an opportunity to redesign the way we do things to make them better in the long run,” said John Trougakos, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

Prof. Trougakos has been researching how to make workplaces and people healthier and more productive for more than 12 years, and said four-day work weeks could be beneficial.

It’s important to look at pros and cons and to be flexible, he said, adding this is a good time to consider new approaches to work.

“More forward-thinking companies should start thinking about it now,” he said, noting it’s a good time to shake-up preexisting dynamics. “People are open to the fact that change is happening.”

The status quo work week of Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. roughly dates back to the Industrial Revolution and the Ford assembly line in the early 1900s.

“We’ve never really changed that,” Prof. Trougakos said, noting that an overhaul is overdue. The way people work is more sedentary and digital now and involves a gamut of other changes in the Western world.

And the current model isn’t necessarily ideal. Prof. Trougakos estimates that stress and burnout costs North American companies about $3 billion to $6 billion a year.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution,” he said, but a four-day work week could be a good fit in some cases.

Chris Higgins, professor emeritus at Western University’s Ivey Business School, said a compressed four-day work week could be suitable for white-collar employees.

“It’s perfect for white collar,” Prof. Higgins said. “Everybody will love it.”

However, for blue-collar workers the idea of four 10-hour work days a week is more problematic, he said, noting some of them could get more fatigued, leading to more accidents and sick leave.

Still, he estimates that for about 30 or 40 per cent of the population four-day work weeks could be doable and beneficial.

In 2018, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand estate planning business, moved to the shortened week and found productivity rose and employees, who had more time for families and hobbies, were happier.

Likewise, Microsoft Japan tested the idea in August 2019 and saw productivity rise by 40 per cent and electricity and paper costs fall.

Ardern flagged New Zealand’s tourism sector, which employs 15 per cent of the population and contributes about $13.8 billion to the country’s gross domestic product, as being one part of the economy that could benefit from people having long weekends.

Similarly, in Canada tourism plays an important role in the economy, where it’s valued at $102 billion a year. Pre-COVID, it was the country’s fifth-largest sector, outpacing telecommunications and mining, and employing 1.8 million Canadians.