It’s here! It’s here! The final blog of 2019 it’s here! This may mean little to you the reader but to me and Sean it’s time for some well-earned rest bite. As two broadminded Europeans, we’ve were inducted into the working world with the assurance that we would receive a wee break in the middle of the year. Obviously, things don’t work like that here. To dust off an old adage; the world spins on an axis, as one man works as another relaxes. Due to this pesky axis, particularly the angle of it, we have our summer holidays here in NZ at Christmas. That’s right! Swimsuit season is the same time as stuffing and gravy season. Madness, I know. I’m sure it’s not just me and Mr. Walters that are feeling the festive fatigue, this time of year can be both slow and busy at times with final pushes for starts this year or coordinating a start date for next year praying they don’t have a change of heart. This final week, however, is fraught with drinks, work parties, and other distractions. You’ll find yourself having to do two days work in one factoring in the inevitable hangover or last-minute Christmas shopping. Most people find ways around this, like myself. Knowing we have our works doo on Thursday I will be in a bit of a hole come Friday morning and not the pithy wordsmith you’ve grown to adore. Resulting in me staying late on Wednesday and swerving the gym.

But what if all weeks were like this? I don’t mean filled with distractions; I mean short. If we look at Brits in particular, did you know that we’re only productive for 2.5 hours of an average working day? Before you laugh, Canadians, who are kind of kiwis in disguise; productive for 1.5 hours a day. Before you take aim at me these aren’t my findings; they are the NZ based entrepreneur Andrew Barnes who was one of the first to implement the four-day week right here in Auckland! Perpetual Guardian, an amalgamation of three trust companies, trialed this innovative working schedule; with staff receiving an extra day off work, on full pay, each week. Staff were not required to work additional hours on their four working days either! After the trial, Barnes announced that it had been a resounding success, with productivity up 20%, stress levels down, customer engagement levels up 30%, revenue remaining stable and costs decreasing. The NZ government took interest in Barnes’ method hoping it may offer some relief to the Auckland traffic congestion. It has since been rolled out permanently.

I suppose our schooling is to blame for conditioning us into this lopsided working week. For years we were told where to be, at what time, day after day cementing us into the routine. It’s almost Pavlovian, hear the bell, go to the room. However, in Colorado; a state renowned for breaking convention they are smashing the status quo. Like when that quintessential 80’s chick threw a hammer at the antagonistic ruler of a ‘not so far off’ dystopian future from Apples 1984 Macintosh advert. As of May 2019, nearly 560 districts in 25 states had adopted the four-day week, and Colorado leads the nation in school districts with four-day weeks with more than 60% of districts statewide adopting the model. Some take off Monday, some take off Friday. The children are our future and by the sounds of it, future masters of industry will have a superior appreciation for work/life balance.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the progress of this working phenomenon but never did I think our very own industry would feel its sweet embrace. Then it happened! And It happened in good ol Blighty! MRL Consulting of Hove has implemented a Monday – Thursday working week since May of this year. After surveying their staff, they found similar results to Barnes; 87% of staff felt their mental health had improved, short-term absences had reduced by 40% and productivity also improved by 25%. It’s a balancing act, it’s a hell of an incentive but are you attracting the wrong type of consultant? Chief executive David Stone alluded to this saying;

“I don’t want to hire people who just want to work a four-day week, I want to hire people who are good enough to do five days of work in four.”

As the data suggests, a four-day working week does the ol wellness wonders! However, I think there’s another angle which isn’t immediately obvious certainly not in other industries. The articles I read on MRL  had a somewhat promotional feel, with the tagline “The business is currently hiring consultants.” As far as attraction and retention go it’s going to be hard to beat an extra 47 fully paid leave! In a highly competitive market, it’s an intriguing USP, I’ve heard of a nine-day fortnight in our market but that seems more of a lifestyle choice, a treat for working 9 days as opposed to the highly focused and deliberate approach the aforementioned businesses rolled out. Perhaps when we’re in the twilight of our careers we will be reprimanding the younger working generation with cries of ‘you don’t know how good you’ve got it’ with their designated nap times and hovercar allowances. Andy Haldane, Bank of England’s chief economist thinks that generation may even have cause to wag their finger at their underlings with the prediction of a three-day working week by 2050. The future looks bright for the average worker, posties too. With 6 working days covering two weeks, that’s plenty of time to get a parcel delivered! Think NZ post would still be as ponderous as ever.

Merry Christmas from the Rice Consulting crew who will be keeping the cogs turning on this industry all the way up to Christmas Eve 🙃🎅

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