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New Zealand PM Ardern floats ‘4 days a week’ as a way to help the economy after coronavirus

In a Facebook live video posted earlier this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shared advice while discussing ways to revive domestic tourism in his country. Over the past few months, the coronavirus crisis has forced people around the world to lock in and reduce global travel demand.

“I already have many people who suggest we have four days a week. In the end, it really is between employers and employees,” Ardern said.

However, the idea has advantages because it might give domestic travelers “flexibility in terms of their travel and leave,” he added. Ardern noted that 60% of New Zealand’s tourism industry came from local residents.

“There are many things we have learned about Covid and the flexibility of people working from home, productivity that can be pushed out of it,” he continued.

The prime minister encouraged employers to consider allowing more flexible work arrangements – including long distance work and spending more time on fewer days – if possible, “because that would certainly help tourism throughout the country.”

A four-day work week has become more popular recently as employers explore whether tighter schedules can increase productivity.

The New Zealand Government itself is no stranger to the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčalternative work schedules. Since 2018, several government agencies have been sign up to try out a program called “flexible work by default,” which directs employers to give their workers more freedom in various ways.
While it is up to each participating institution to decide what the arrangement is like, the government has outlined a number of possibilities – including allows people to adopt shorter work weeks, “like 40 hours for four days, or two days and nine nights.”
In 2018, the New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian, which helps customers manage their will and plantations, also held a two-month concept trial. The firm said it was very successful, that is want to make it permanent.

By working only four days a week, all employees report higher productivity, better work life balance and reduce stress, according to the company, which has around 240 staff.

“It’s just a theory, something I think I want to try because I want to create a better environment for my team,” founder Andrew Barnes to CNN Business at the time. “They are beyond my wildest dreams.”
Big business in other places also started to go along. Last year, Microsoft (MSFT) accepted the idea when a company team in Japan experimented with shutting down its office every Friday in August, and giving all employees extra days every week.

The results are promising: While the amount of time spent at work is cut dramatically, productivity – measured by sales per employee – rises nearly 40% over the same period a year earlier, the company said.

As a result, Microsoft announced that they would follow up with other experiments in Japan, and also asked other companies to join this initiative.

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