Staff at a Whangarei panelbeating company are happy with their choice of moving to a four-day working week.

Kevin Hurley, who with his wife Nicky owns Tony Gordon Panelbeaters and Auto Painters, said his workshop team voted unanimously to trial working four 10-hour days a week.

It could be the first panel and paint shop in New Zealand to try a longer day, shorter week system.

Hurley said the longer days were compensated for by the workers having a whole extra day for family life, leisure or projects.

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Some of the five panelbeaters could have stuck with the five-day week if they chose.

''We gave them the choice. As far as the business and customers go we're open the same hours as ever and offer the same services, but we see this as being a way for the staff to get the most out of their private lives.

''It costs me a little more in holiday pay and a few extras but it's minimal really, and the staff are happy. It's about them.''

Happy with the new working week, Kevin Hurley, left, Damien Price, Murray Welch and Stefan Ashford.
Happy with the new working week, Kevin Hurley, left, Damien Price, Murray Welch and Stefan Ashford.

Among advantages of the longer working days are a quicker turnaround, with customers getting their vehicles back sooner, Hurley said.

Because of the earlier start on Monday mornings, for example, some people choose to drop their cars off on Friday afternoon to ensure their job gets the full 10-hour day, and finished the same day.

While the workers have already given the scheme the thumbs up, it is officially on trial until Christmas. But the trial might not stop there either.

''If it all works fine we'll carry on and we might even tweak it a bit, maybe look at alternating weekends to two days one week, four the next,'' Hurley said.

As well as the workers agreeing to the change, Hurley had to run the idea past the Collision Repairs Association which was not aware of any other member company doing the same.

''I guarantee that within six months there'll be more doing this. I think the whole of New Zealand should go on to this.''

A four-day working week was trialled at Perpetual Guardian offices across New Zealand earlier this year and was so successful the boss wanted to make it permanent.

The firm, which deals with wills and trust funds, conducted the eight-week experiment in July. It saw its 240-strong workforce, in 16 offices across the country, retain full pay alongside a three-day weekend.

Andrew Barnes, chief executive of Perpetual Guardian, said he had made a recommendation to the board to continue the policy after an analysis revealed a "massive increase" in staff satisfaction with no drop in productivity.

To ensure an objective analysis, Barnes invited academic researchers Jarrod Haar, a professor of human resource management at AUT, Dr Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School, into the building to observe the impact of the trial on the workforce.

"What we've seen is a massive increase in engagement and staff satisfaction about the work they do, a massive increase in staff intention to continue to work with the company and we've seen no drop in productivity," said Barnes.