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.


Oil recoups losses as OPEC, US Fed see robust economy

Updated 14 November 2019

Oil recoups losses as OPEC, US Fed see robust economy

  • US-China trade deal will help remove ‘dark cloud’ over oil, says Barkindo

LONDON: Oil prices reversed early losses on Wednesday after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said it saw no signs of global recession and rival US shale oil production could grow by much less than expected in 2020.

Also supporting prices were comments by US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who said the US economy would see a “sustained expansion” with the full impact of recent interest rate cuts still to be felt.

Brent crude futures stood roughly flat at around $62 per barrel by 1450 GMT, having fallen by over 1 percent earlier in the day. US West Texas Intermediate crude was at $56 per barrel, up 20 cents or 0.4 percent.

“The baseline outlook remains favorable,” Powell said.

OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said global economic fundamentals remained strong and that he was still confident that the US and China would reach a trade deal.

“It will almost remove that dark cloud that had engulfed the global economy,” Barkindo said, adding it was too early to discuss the output policy of OPEC’s December meeting.

HIGHLIGHT

  • US oil production likely to grow by just 0.3-0.4 million barrels per day next year — or less than half of previous expectations.
  • The prospects for ‘US crude exports had turned bleak after shipping rates jumped last month.’

He also said some US companies were now saying US oil production would grow by just 0.3-0.4 million barrels per day next year — or less than half of previous expectations — reducing the risk of an oil glut next year.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday Washington and Beijing were close to finalizing a trade deal, but he fell short of providing a date or venue for the signing ceremony.

“The expectations of an inventory build in the US and uncertainty over the OPEC+ strategy on output cuts and US/China trade deal are weighing on oil prices,” said analysts at ING, including the head of commodity strategy Warren Patterson.

In the US, crude oil inventories were forecast to have risen for a third straight week last week, while refined products inventories likely declined, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.

ANZ analysts said the prospects for US crude exports had turned bleak after shipping rates jumped last month.