At the Optimist Daily, we’re putting a lot of focus on what the world can do after the pandemic to create a healthier, more sustainable, and more inclusive society. In New Zealand, one idea that was suggested by prime minister Jacinda Ardern is starting to gain a lot of traction: shifting to a four-day working week.
In a Facebook live video, Ardern said people had suggested everything from the shorter workweek to more public holidays as a means to stimulate the economy and encourage domestic tourism, while the borders remain closed to foreign nationals. It can also help employees address persistent work/life balance issues. Speaking from Rotorua, one of the country’s tourist hubs, Ardern said many New Zealanders said they would travel more domestically if they had more flexibility in their working lives.
The country’s tourism market has taken a massive downturn after the pandemic, with all borders remaining closed to foreign nationals and many New Zealanders taking pay-cuts or tightening their belt in case of lay-offs. “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,” Ardern said.
One New Zealand estate planning business with over 200 employees, Perpetual Guardian, had already transitioned to a four-day workweek in 2018. Founder Andrew Barnes claims 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.
We think a four-day workweek is certainly something to be considered for the US, especially since US workers are already some of the most overworked in the world.