I suppose it is a reflection of the low bar in my own country that I am this surprised that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is “listening to experts,” “seeking data,” and “doing things to protect the nation,” but I continue to be floored by New Zealand’s exemplary handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Today on the cheering line: Ardern’s suggestion that employers in New Zealand consider offering flexible work plans, like four-day workweeks and more public holidays to help New Zealand’s economy cope with a post-pandemic world. Meanwhile, in America we get headlines like these.
The Guardian reports that Ardern addressed the potential for a four-day workweek, among other tweaks to the standard work schedule, in a Facebook Live this week. Ardern said she was speaking with people in tourism to find out how to help the battered industry. New Zealand is slowly and very carefully opening up, but its borders are still closed to non-residents, which means the tourism industry will have to rely on domestic travel for the time being.
Ardern says there are a few solutions, including truncating the standard workweek:
“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day workweek. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees,” she said. “But as I’ve said, there’s just so much we’ve learned about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that.”
She added, “I’d really encourage people to think about that if you’re an employer and in a position to do so. To think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”
Companies were fiddling with the idea of a four-day workweek before the pandemic, so it’s not totally out of left field for those conversations to continue now that social distancing measures have shattered standard work practices. But it’s wild for me, living in a nation hellbent on literally working its residents to death, to hear a leader suggest the key to stimulating the economy is to work less. It’s almost as if productivity weren’t simply the act of pouring one’s entire lifeblood into producing, but into enjoying the fruits of yours and other’s production as well. Wild! New Zealand, when you reopen your borders, will you take us? Or, at least, me?