Coronavirus: Kiwi businessman says four day work week could help to rebuild NZ's economy

A four-day workweek could be a solution to help rebuild New Zealand's economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, Kiwi businessman Andrew Barnes says.

Barnes has previously gained worldwide attention when his company Perpetual Guardian and 200 employees transitioned to the structure in 2018.

He said the shift made his employees happier, more productive and improved mental and physical health.

Now he says more businesses should try it as it could help to boost New Zealand's economy.

"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.

"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."

He says New Zealand could use the extra day off to upskill or travel, and it would allow more people to keep their jobs.

One way to implement it would be to begin by only paying employees for the four days, with the Government partly meeting the cost to workers of reduced hours, while committing to get them back to full pay within six to 12 months, Barnes suggested. 

He also says there will be mental health benefits to the workweek.

"The Kindness Institute reported a 25 percent uptick in use of its services during lockdown, so we must understand that there has to be a focus on mental health in order to resurge economically.

"The four 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."

In a Facebook live on Tuesday, Jacinda Ardern said employers should consider the short week.

"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 learnt about COVID and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that," the Prime Minister said.

"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."

Thousands of New Zealanders have lost their jobs during the pandemic, and Fletchers Building announced on Wednesday they also plan to lay off 10 percent of their workforce- around 1000 jobs.

Many Kiwis have been coming up with ways to boost the economy including Jeremy Corbett who says New Zealand should introduce a new public holiday.

The Project started a petition for the GOOT (Get Out Of Town) Day which has now received over 3000 signatures.