As New Zealand’s economy adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pitched a four-day workweek and other flexible working options, saying it will stimulate the economy, boost domestic tourism and encourage better work-life balance while the country’s borders remain closed to foreign nationals, according to The Guardian.
The pitch comes as the NZ economy is expected to contract up to 8% this year according to the IMF, while unemployment could hit 15% – 30%.
Ardern was sharing suggestions during a Facebook live session while she was in the tourist city of Rotorua – adding that New Zealanders would travel more within the island nation if they had more flexibility, helping the country’s collapsed tourism sector.
“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day workweek. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees. But as I’ve said there’s just so much we’ve learned about COVID and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that,” said Ardern.
“I’d really encourage people to think about that if you’re an employer and in a position to do so. To think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”
Andrew Barnes is the founder of Perpetual Guardian, a business of more than 200 people that transitioned to a four-day workweek in 2018.
Barnes found the shift made his employees happier and more productive and said the regime also had benefits for mental and physical health, the environment, family and social lives, and climate change.
“New Zealand could definitely go to a four-day week in the aftermath of Covid, and in fact it would be a strategy to rebuild the economy and particularly the hard-hit tourism market as it pivots to a domestic focus,” Barnes said.
“We need to retain all the productivity benefits working from home has brought, including cleaner air and a lack of gridlock lost productivity from commuting while helping businesses stay afloat. We have to be bold with our model. This is an opportunity for a massive reset.” –The Guardian
According to Barnes, a four-day workweek could be modeled after the German system of kurzarbeit, or “short work,” which would theoretically allow people to remain in their jobs.
“Finally, we have to factor in the need to address widespread mental health problems,” said Barnes. “The Kindness Institute reported a 25% uptick in use of its services during the lockdown, so we must understand that there has to be a focus on mental health in order to resurge economically. The 4 Day Week is a tool to protect the health of workers in every respect, making this model all the more relevant to the new world we find ourselves in.”