Perpetual Guardian got plenty of news coverage last week after announcing that they would be trialling a four-day working week for all staff. At its core, its core they say it’s about improving staff motivation and productivity.
In March, Perpetual Guardian, a firm which deals with wills and trust funds, will introduce a four-day week for a period of six weeks across the business of over 200 staff in a bid to measure what impact this will have on productivity within the company.
Workers’ salaries will remain the same and the length of the workday will not be increased over the course of the six-week period.
“We have seen cases where employees work longer hours for fewer days of the week or they earn 75 per cent of their full-time salary, but that is not what we are doing here,” says Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes.
Perpetual Guardian head of people and capability Christine Brotherton pointed to international research showing a correlation between employee engagement and productivity.
“If employees are engaged with their job and employer, they are more productive,” Brotherton said.
“This is why we are adopting this trial. We believe efficiency will come with more staff focus and motivation.”
Apart from hoping that the trial is a success and that my employer will follow suit, it did get me thinking about the potential impact this idea could have on congestion in Auckland if more businesses did the same.
The Auckland Transport Alignment Project listed three key elements as part of its recommended strategic approach. One of those was to “Maximise new opportunities to influence travel demand“. Under that heading there were three areas focused on.
- Better integrate land use and transport
- Actively encourage increases in vehicle occupancy
- Progressively move to smarter transport pricing
We heard of progress on the last of those just last week.
Understandably, fundamentally changing the structure of travel demand would have been out of scope. But that’s exactly what an idea like this, if adopted widely, could deliver. Mondays and Fridays would likely be the most popular extra days to take off but there would clearly be reduced demand on other days too. What would that do to graphs like this which predict the impacts of congestion? Could it be enough to shift peak congestion back to interpeak levels?
More time off work and less time travelling when you are working. That’s a win win.
Commuters aren’t the only ones that would benefit though. With less traffic the road transport industry would also benefit massively. Congestion has meant that trucks delivering stuff around Auckland now make fewer runs every day. So more trucks are needed to move the same amount of goods, but the latter is growing too. Having such a dramatic, cheap impact on demand could quickly change that.
Let’s not forget the impact this could have on transport budgets. There’s currently an estimated $7 billion funding shortfall for transport projects over the next decade alone. Significantly reducing demand could allow some of the projects on the list to be pushed back a bit, easing pressure on the council’s books. Of course some of those projects may still be needed in the future as population growth and even induced demand from having less congested roads will eventually see levels back but this could give us some breathing space.
Overall this are potentially huge implications for transport if an idea like this was able to get widespread adoption by NZ businesses. Perhaps transport agencies should consider how they could encourage other businesses to take it up. So let’s hope Perpetual Guardian’s trial is a raging success.