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Andrew Barnes on the origins of the Four Day Week

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I first heard about the Four Day Work Week campaign at the HR Productivity Summit in London on 31st January 2019.

The speaker from Guardian Perpetual, an estate planning company in New Zealand explained how their founder, Andrew Barnes, had decided to introduce a four-day workweek as a trial.

The logic was simple. Employees would do 100% of their work in 80% of their past working hours, which would be four days, and if customer service levels remained at 100% the workers would continue to receive 100% of a five-day workweek pay.

Now cynics will claim that workers were simply squeezing five days’ worth of hours into four days. Stretching their day so to speak. But that is not how the four-day workweek works. The hours worked in the week must be 80% of the hours that would be worked over a conventional five-day workweek.

To make sure that the outcome of the experiment was unbiased Andrew asked academics from two New Zealand universities to measure the results and assess the impact.

The results were astounding! And the impact on both Guardian Perpetual and the people who work there has been impressive. Productivity increased and employee engagement rose to levels never seen before in New Zealand.

Since Andrew decided to share the findings of this work experiment with the world businesses large like Microsoft Japan to small ones like Consilia Legal in the UK have adopted the four-day workweek.

Marie Walsh the founder of Consilia Legal a specialist employment and family law firm in Leeds explained to me during our Abeceder Quotation Conversation her winning strategy to ensure that she could compete effectively with large law firms for the most talented people. Instead of trying to compete on remuneration, Marie took the advice of her mother. The most valuable thing you can give someone is not money, it’s time!

As a result, Marie introduced the four-day workweek at Consilia, and just like Guardian Perpetual has seen both productivity and employee engagement improve.

In my recent Abeceder Quotation Conversation with Andrew Barnes, I had the opportunity to ask him how the four-day work week started. Had he been inspired by his mother? No, he explained. Just like most people he had that moment when he wondered what it was all for. It was a quotation, from the novel Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby kick that both summed up how he felt and provided the catalyst for him to start a review of how he both lived and worked.

The result was the Four-Day Week at Guardian Perpetual and him now spearheading a campaign that is changing the way in which people around work.