Kiwi Richlister Andrew Barnes says that if the Government is serious about wellbeing then it needs to do more than simply pouring more money into areas of concern.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the Perpetual Guardian boss applauds the Government for committing an unprecedented level of resources to mental health, family welfare and transforming the economy but then questions whether this is enough.

"While significant commitments were made, these were still reactive, responding to the pressures of the modern world rather than dealing with them at source," argues Barnes.

Barnes questions whether there isn't perhaps an alternative strategy that could address all these concerns and, in turn, make the need for "a future Wellbeing Budget redundant".


His answer is to rethink the way and the amount that New Zealanders work on a daily basis.

As the first prominent businessperson in New Zealand to adopt the four-day week, Barnes believes there could be merit in employing this policy at a Government level.

In the 16 months since first implementing the four-day week at his business, Barnes says he has garnered a far better understanding of the human cost of work in the age of the gig economy and 24-hour commerce.

"We talk about working smarter, not harder, but too often that is shorthand for a reliance on the digital devices that are making it impossible to separate our work lives from our home lives."

He says the focus in the workforce should shift from the number of hours worked to what is actually produced during those hours. Evidence from Barnes' early tests into the four-day week showed that productivity among workers improved, along with the overall happiness of staff.

New Zealand trusts business Perpetual Guardian has signed off on the four-day week, turning an experiment into company policy.

"It is clear from our discussions with business and leaders from around the world that the emphasis we placed upon maintaining productivity rather than just focusing on work-life balance has resonated and has been given credibility by the independent research we commissioned to assess the impact," says Barnes.

He is now calling on the Government to put the four-day week on the agenda for the World Economic Forum's 2020 meeting at Davos and use it to start a conversation about how to undo the damage caused by the burden of long work hours.

He also believes championing a four-day week could help to address the issue of climate change.


"We desperately need to reduce carbon emissions to halt the global temperature rise – imagine what taking 20 per cent of cars off the road each day can do for that goal," he says.

The ideas proposed by Barnes aren't quite as revolutionary as they might at first seem. In recent years, we've seen both France and Germany reduce their overall working hours.

While the average workweek in New Zealand remains around 40 hours, German metal workers last year won a right to a 28-hour work week and the French have benefited from a 35-hour work week since 2000.

What's more is that New Zealand also lags behind when it comes to paid holidays. According to 2018 figures, New Zealand's 20 paid holiday days lag behind France at 30, as well as Norway, Finland and Sweden at 25.

It's also worth noting that almost three-quarters of British workers claim they could do their job to the same standard in four days, according to a survey commissioned by the government. And the British Labour Party has also recently commissioned a study into the viability of a shorter working week for public sector workers.

"Overseas, companies in eight countries have implemented a four-day week, with the US, the UK and Australia leading the charge," Barnes says.

Whether the policy spreads is yet to be seen, but Barnes believes that New Zealand could play a leading role in challenging the status quo of the working week.

"New Zealanders have led the world before, and we must do so again."