Jacinda Ardern encourages New Zealand workplaces to adopt four-day work week

New Zealand has proposed a four-day work week to allow people the flexibility to travel domestically, in a bid to revive the country’s tourism sector.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the bold suggestion in a Facebook Live video yesterday after meeting with tourism operators in Rotorua.

Ms Ardern said she heard about the work the industry is going “to think about how they pivot towards the domestic tourism market”.

Sixty per cent of the market is made up of domestic travellers, but Kiwis spend about $9 billion on international holidays, she said.

“The question for me is, how do we encourage Kiwis to go out and have that experience … and get out and about and visit some of the amazing places and tourism offerings that we have,” Ms Ardern said.

“Some of the ideas being bounced around are about how we support New Zealanders to make the most of travelling around the country. Some are saying, ‘Well, if they had some flexibility in terms of their leave, they’ll do that.’

“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees. But as I’ve said, there’s lots of things we’ve learnt about COVID and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that.”

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Ms Ardern encouraged employers to think about whether they’re in a position to alter work weeks, “because it would certainly help tourism all around the country”.

She also spoke about the importance of the so-called trans-Tasman Bubble concept, which would see Australia and New Zealand open their borders to each other for the purpose of travel.

“We’re doing what we can to support all of that work being done at the border so when we’re in a position here in New Zealand, and when Australia is in a position to safely reopen borders, that we can do that.”

Ms Ardern said making the idea a reality was “on the horizon”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged the possibility of overseas travel to New Zealand in “stage three” of the country’s road to recovery plan.

The Australian Government hopes that stage three will be active by July.

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Ms Ardern’s four-day work week suggestion comes on the back of her suggestion that the government could increase the number of public holidays observed in New Zealand.

“We are, as a government, thinking as we speak around the ideas to encourage New Zealanders to come and see their own backyard,” she told reporters.

“So, there’s a range of things that sit within that, and those are things we’re giving active consideration to.”

There are growing calls for workplaces to change the way they operate, with Deloitte Access Economics describing the COVID-19 crisis as a rare opportunity “reimagine what the new world of work will look like”.

And it also suggested adopting a four-day work week to boost flexible working practices.

Pip Dexter, Deloitte’s Human Capital Leader, said corporates in Australia had just experienced “the world’s greatest working from home experiment”.

While it has illustrated the value of technology, Ms Dexter said the past few months has also “amplified the human element of work and life”.

“The challenge and opportunity now for business leaders is to ask: how do we avoid going back to what we had before? How do we make work better for humans, from a wellbeing perspective, as well as continue to use technology in a way that enriches the human work experience?”

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Some of the ways businesses could weave wellbeing into a redesigned workplace include enabling people to “work from anywhere” and shorter work weeks.

“Our research shows that a business focus on wellbeing can be achieved by making thoughtful adjustments to how, when, where, and by whom work is done,” Ms Dexter said.

“It could mean structuring work so that performance does not depend on any single individual, making it possible for all workers and leaders to take meaningful leaves of absence.

“Or it can mean giving workers more control over when and where they work, so that they can work at the times and places that they feel most productive.”

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