Do more with less: New Zealand company’s four-day week

Andrew Barnes, founder of Perpetual Guardian.
Updated 06 November 2019

Do more with less: New Zealand company’s four-day week

WELLINGTON: A New Zealand estate planning company, which made headlines when it trialed a four-day week last year, has seen a big productivity increase since it made the change permanent, with staff spending less time surfing the internet.

Perpetual Guardian tried cutting working hours to 30 from 37.5 for its 240 staff in early 2018, asking them to deliver the same amount of output in less time, but keeping pay the same.

The success of the trial prompted the company to introduce the policy on a long-term, opt-in basis from last November. Almost four-fifths of staff chose the shorter working week.

“I’m doing this as a businessman, not because I want people to have a nice life,” Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes told Reuters.

“Business is slowly coming to the realization that if one in four of your staff is stressed or has a mental health problem, that is not productive.”

FASTFACTS

• Perpetual Guardian tried cutting working hours to 30 from 37.5 for its 240 staff in early 2018, asking them to deliver the same amount of output in less time, but keeping pay the same.

• The success of the trial prompted the company to introduce the policy on a long-term, opt-in basis from last November. •Interest in reduced working hours is growing around the world.

• Critics of a shorter working week say it is not suited to all sectors and can be difficult and costly to implement.

Interest in reduced working hours is growing around the world. Britain’s opposition Labour Party has promised a 32-hour week for the whole country if elected. Microsoft reported a 40 percent rise in productivity when it gave its 2,300 employees in Japan Fridays off in August.

Critics of a shorter working week say it is not suited to all sectors and can be difficult and costly to implement.

Think-tank the Center for Policy Studies, for example, published a report on Tuesday that estimated that Labour’s policy would cost the public sector alone at £17 billion ($21.94 billion).

Barnes, who has set up a foundation to fund research into the four-day week and the future of work, said Perpetual Guardian’s productivity, revenues and profits had been boosted since the four-day week was introduced.

Staff loyalty increased and the company was able to attract higher quality recruits. Stress levels and sick days had fallen, Barnes said.

Productivity has risen 30-40 percent, while Internet surfing dropped 35 percent during office hours, with people improving their time management, holding shorter meetings and signaling if they do not want to be disturbed.

The four-day week is mandatory for senior managers at the company to prevent working hours creeping up again.


Sharjah sells $1bn sukuk

Updated 03 June 2020

Sharjah sells $1bn sukuk

  • Gulf states seek to bolster finances hit by pandemic and historic slide in oil prices

DUBAI: Sharjah, the third-largest emirate of the UAE, sold $1 billion in seven-year sukuk, or Islamic bonds, on Tuesday, according to a document from one of the banks arranging the deal.

The debt sale comes as several governments in the Gulf seek to bolster their finances to face the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and a historic slide in oil prices.

Sharjah set the final spread at 245 basis points (bps) over midswaps for the sukuk, which are Islamic sharia-compliant bonds, according to the document seen by Reuters.

It tightened the spread by 30 bps from where it began marketing the notes earlier on Tuesday.

Sharjah, rated Baa2 by Moody’s ratings agency and BBB by S&P, is a relatively frequent issuer of US dollar Islamic bonds.

HSBC was hired as global coordinator for the transaction. Other banks on the deal were Bank ABC, Dubai Islamic Bank, Gulf International Bank, Mashreqbank and Sharjah Islamic Bank.

In May, the emirate raised 2 billion dirhams ($545 million) in privately placed one-year sukuk to support its economy during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a statement by Bank of Sharjah, which arranged that deal.

“Issued as 12 month dirham-denominated paper in several tranches, the Sharjah Liquidity Support Mechanism (SLSM) sukuk represents the first rated short term local currency tradeable instrument in the UAE, which can be used for liquidity management by banks,” the Sharjah Finance Department said in a statement on Tuesday, confirming that deal. It said that it was a first tranche and that further tranches with one or more other banks were expected to expand the SLSM to 4 billion dirhams.

S&P Global Ratings in April revised its outlook on the emirate to negative from stable due to lower oil prices and the impact of the new coronavirus.

“Although we expect GDP growth to recover in 2021, lower-for-longer oil prices and a protracted lockdown period could pressure the emirate’s fiscal position,” the agency said.