The 4-Day Week: In pursuit of productivity, profitability, and well-being

Can you increase productivity by reducing working hours? In 2018, New Zealand entrepreneur Andrew Barnes conducted an experiment in his own company to find out. The result, backed up by academic research, was a resounding yes.

In this discussion with Thinkers50 co-founder, Des Dearlove, Andrew outlines how the 4-day week can benefit not only productivity but also the environment, gender pay balance, family cohesion, care responsibilities, and equality. Key to success for the organisation, he explains, is the importance of process and procedure, such as eliminating over-long, over-staffed meetings and encouraging employee-led initiatives, such as designated non-interrupted time. 

Find out more from Andrew about the 4-Day Week revolution and how it’s bringing together scholars, thinkers, and practitioners to change the world, one company at a time.



Des Dearlove:

Hello, I’m Des Dearlove, co-founder of Thinkers50. Welcome to our weekly LinkedIn Live session, celebrating the brightest new voices in the world of management thinking. In January, we announced the Thinkers50 Radar list for 2024. 30 exciting, rising stars in management thinking, and we’ll be hearing from one of them today.

This year’s Radar list is brought to you in partnership with Deloitte. As those of you who tune in regularly know, we like to make these sessions as interactive as possible. So please let us know where you’re joining us from, and put any questions you have in the comments box. Our guest today is responsible not just for a pioneering idea, but also for creating a global movement.

Entrepreneur Andrew Barnes has made a career of market-changing innovation and industry digitization, leading and transforming companies in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. In 2018, he made international headlines across the world with an idea that he believed would raise productivity in the workplace, while also contributing to the personal well-being of his staff, a four-day workweek.

Through his company, New Zealand’s largest corporate trustee company, Perpetual Guardian, Andrew announced a four-day week trial, with staff receiving an extra day off work on full pay each week. He’s here today to tell us what happened next. Andrew, welcome.

Andrew Barnes:

Hi, Des. How are you?

Des Dearlove:

Yeah, I’m good. Congratulations on the Thinkers50 Radar recognition. But more importantly, on the amazing initiative that you and your partner, Charlotte, have created.

Andrew Barnes:

Well, thank you.

Des Dearlove:

This is a great story. Yeah, tell us what happened.

Andrew Barnes:

Well, look, we’re accidentally evangelists for this. I started my journey literally on a plane flying to London, reading a magazine that was The Economist.

It said that people were only productive in the United Kingdom for two and a half hours a day.

Des Dearlove:

As much as that?

Andrew Barnes:

Well, hell, if you were Canadian, apparently the same piece of research said it was one and a half hours a day, so they can’t get too smug. But I wondered if that was happening in my company, so this was a journey totally about productivity. It wasn’t about work-life balance, it wasn’t about anything else.

It was trying to think what stopped people being productive in the workplace. I wondered if I changed the way the workweek was structured, and if I changed and challenged the way in which work was done, would I get a different outcome? That morphed into the concept of the four-day week.

Des Dearlove:

To me, this is a very important part of the story and you’ve emphasized it from all the interviews I’ve listened to with you, where you’re saying this wasn’t about work-life balance.

This was a business case. This was driven by the notion that actually this might make people more productive. How did you get from there? Obviously, the trial went well,  you seem to have hit a nerve.

Andrew Barnes:

Well, a couple of things. First of all, yeah, we hit one nerve in that I expected to get one article in the local newspaper, maybe something on our local TV station, viewing figures about 30,000. Not being on something like Thinkers50, not being in Forbes, not actually being the most-read article in The New York Times after the Trump-Putin summit. That reflected something that we never expected.

Which is that when asked, about 80% of people around the world say that actually they would like more time. We hit, I think, it’s a bit of the zeitgeist on this. We hit a point pre-pandemic, when people were starting to question whether the way we work today in the 21st century is right. Now that equally applies to me as a businessman. I have to tell you, my board hated this, my leadership team hated this, everybody hated this.

But I had a hunch that if I said to my people, “What would you do differently?” That they would tell me what are the things that are stopping them being productive, stopping them getting their job done? Also, a little bit about environment, how the workplace was constructed, but also a little bit about attitude. What were they doing, which they shouldn’t be doing, in order to fill the 40 hours of a conventional workweek?

My hypothesis was that if you did all of those things, that you would end up with a result that people could work better. If they were able to work better and they were able to have more time off, then that would make them hopefully the best they could be in the workplace, or the best they could be at home. There was no science. This was a wild hunch. Some of your listeners actually can see the original announcement on YouTube.

I’m literally saying, “I have no idea if this is going to work. I have no idea how we’re going to do it, but what I am going to do is I want to give it a try.” Off we went and did this three-month trial with academic research alongside, to see what would happen if you had a four-day week on full pay.

Des Dearlove:

So let’s be clear, basically people work, they don’t work more hours in those days, those four days. They work the same as if, well, 80% of what they were working before, but for 100% pay?

Andrew Barnes:

It’s what we call the 100-80-100 rule. 100% pay, that’s five-day pay. 80% time, that’s 80% of your normal working week, provided we get 100% productivity. Now, clickbait is it’s a four-day week. For some people, it is. Other people though, will take a couple of afternoons off and actually work in-house. Others will work five days a week, but compressed hours, so 80% to the X.

The other thing to point out is that the formula can also apply to part-time staff, so it’s applicable to everyone. We use the 100-80-100 rule right away across the board. But how you take the time off is key, because actually people value the time that is important to them. As I said, with a working parent, if I give you a day off, it doesn’t help you.

But being able to drop your kids off at school and pick them up from school five days a week, makes a big difference and cuts down things like childcare costs.

Des Dearlove:

Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. Now, you mentioned that although it didn’t start off as science, but you did have some researchers.

You’ve done a slide all over this somewhere. Can you quantify, what did you actually see during that trial in terms of the numbers?

Andrew Barnes:

Well, first of all, productivity went up by 25%, which was a bit of a surprise, but we ended up achieving a consistently 25% improvement. But what we saw on the other side was that engagement, empowerment, enrichment, enthusiasm, those scores went up 40%, 4-0%. To the levels that the researchers said were the highest they’d ever seen in New Zealand.

Stress levels dropped, absenteeism halved in terms of people taking sick days. More people said they were better able to do their job working four days rather than five. Burnout levels dropped by about 60% in terms of people feeling better about themselves. There wasn’t a single measure in our trial, that something cropped up that was to the negative. Everything was to the positive.

That was the reason, I think, that Charlotte and I then turned around and said, “Well, maybe we’ve got something here.” Not only were people reaching out from all over the world, but actually it seemed to us that there was something in this that we needed to share. Because most business leaders, when you talk about a four-day week, instantaneously roll their eyes, stare off into the middle distance.

Then tell you exactly what’s not going to work in their company, their country, their industry. Yet actually the evidence, not just from the trial but from the work that we’ve done subsequently, shows that this is actually, probably one of the most sensible and rational business decisions that you could ever make.

Des Dearlove:

You mentioned one of the questions. Well, let me go back one step.

Your board, who probably weren’t that thrilled when you first came up with this idea, what did they say when they saw the outcome or the results?

Andrew Barnes:

Well, they were shocked. I fixed them in the first instance by announcing the trial on national television, so they didn’t have a chance to block it. But look, we have private capital on our board. I think it’s fair to say, I don’t think I ever convinced them.

Because there was a theory that if we could get more productivity out of four days, then why weren’t we trying to get more productivity out of five? Now, actually that doesn’t work. The idea is it’s the incentive of the time off and having people infused, refreshed, engaged, that drives the higher level of productivity.

If you just push them as you do normally, then you won’t get that uplift. I think that’s fairly clear, again, from most of the research. They grudgingly accepted it, but they all expected that what would happen was that after the trial was over, that the performance would actually fall away. I think they’re still disappointed it hasn’t.

Des Dearlove:

No, fantastic. Obviously, you’ve gone on and done all sorts of research since then and this stands up. It continues to, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Andrew Barnes:

Yeah. What we did is we created a not-for-profit called 4 Day Week Global, and we basically advocated around the world for people to at least try a four-day week. Now we’re not arguing for legislation to make it compulsory. Our view was that actually because this was a sensible business decision, businesses should try it. What we thought we could do is help them, both in terms of … I’d written the book, and we’d started to create the material that would help them implement a four-day week in their own businesses. 

To date, we have run trials in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. We’ve got them underway in Spain, Portugal, Italy, another 5, 6, 7 countries across Europe. We’ve got trials going in the Middle East and South America, and then we’ve also got nascent projects running in India.

This has now moved from what was a crazy idea with a bunch of hobbits in New Zealand in 2018 to, I think, a global movement. The evidence from each trial – so whenever we run a trial we get a local university to partner with our core researchers – so our core researchers are from Boston College and Cambridge University, and then we get a local university to partner.

The research has been now consistent all the way across the varying trials. Interestingly, equally consistent in South Africa, which was our first developing country trial, as opposed to being in a developed western economy.

Des Dearlove:

Yes. It’s really interesting because the thing is, I think we all think that somehow the five-day week was created by God or something. It was a made up thing in the first place, wasn’t it really?

It was all to do with the Industrial Revolution and it wasn’t just a five-day week. It was quite often a six and sometimes a seven-day week in the factories.

Andrew Barnes:

Well, I think this is the interesting thing, Des. If you look through the 19th century, certainly in the context of the UK, which obviously was the first industrialized country. You’ve got 12-hour day, 10-hour day, eight-hour day movements. You’ve got seven days, six days movements. We have had, all the way through the 19th century, there were progressive changes in how we worked.

We get to the start of the 20th century and you said it’s God. Well, some people view Henry Ford as God. Supposedly, Henry Ford is the guy who introduced the five-day week. Now interestingly, he introduced it because he wanted to develop a market for his cars. It was again nothing to do with work-life balance. He reasoned that if you could just go to church on a Sunday, you didn’t need a car.

But if I gave you an extra day off, then you could take the kids to the beach, and therefore, you needed a car to do that. There is another logical reduction in the working week as a consequence of a business imperative. I would argue that we are no different here, that that’s what we’re trying to do. We created the five-day week for the repetitive manufacturing industry in the 1920s.

Here we are in the 21st century saying, “Well, that’s relevant to the way we work today in the information age, where most people are not in the repetitive manufacturing industry.” Often, the repetitive manufacturing bit, if you are in that, is being done by robots or machines. The creative bit is being done by humans, but we haven’t changed the way in which we’ve constructed our workweek. I think that’s at the heart of the problem.

Des Dearlove:

You mentioned your book, which you wrote in 2019. For those of you who don’t know it, surprisingly enough, it’s called The 4 Day Week book. It’s a guide really to help companies trying to put this idea into practice, really.

It must be nearly time for a new book. Have you got anything in mind? If you were to write a new book, how’s the story changed since you wrote the-

Andrew Barnes:

Well, bizarrely as we speak, I am starting the early stages of a scribble. I think there’s a few things that have changed. When I wrote the book, it was very much about the experience in my company and why I thought there was something there. Now since that time, of course, we’ve run all the trials. Interestingly, we’ve also benchmarked the performance of companies.

My own company’s been doing this for five years now. But we’ve benchmarked companies that have gone through the trial and are still doing four-day week, a year, two years later. What we’re finding, of course, is that productivity is up 33% broadly in companies that have implemented it. That again is consistent across the British and the American and Canadian trials.

We’ve got 60%, 70% drops in burnouts. We’ve got more people effectively saying you can’t pay me enough to go back to five days. The statistics are that 15% of your workforce say, “You can’t pay me enough to go back.” Another 15% would say it would be about 75%. Another 40% tells you you’re going to have to pay me 50% or more.

What that shows is that people value the time off more than the amount of money that you are prepared to pay for it, which is interesting. Then you find things that not only are the health and happiness scores higher, but you’re finding sick days are halved. That’s enormously important for the economy. For example, the UK loses about 17.9 million days a year to sickness.

That’s about a $45 billion hit to the economy. If you can halve that, that is a major impact. What I think we’re talking about now, is in fact a four-day world, not a four-day week. What would happen to the world if, in fact, we changed our working practices? A bit of that is health. One in four, one in five of the workforce has a stress or mental health issue. They’re not as fit as they should be because they haven’t got time to exercise.

They eat the wrong foods because they’re time-poor. What would be the impact on health? What would be the impact on education if parents have more time to spend with their kids, rather than have them in care? What would happen to family cohesion? You’ve got aging populations. What happens if I’ve got more time to care for my aging parent? Then things like the environment, there was a study done in the UK by Henley Business School, which said that if the British moved to a four-day week, it would be the equivalent of taking the entire UK private car fleet off the road every year.

Des Dearlove:

No, that’s fascinating. We’re getting some questions coming in. I’m going to put the question to you. You’ve partly answered it, but perhaps we can expand on that point.

How might the four-day work paradigm influence global, environmental sustainability efforts? What role do diverse workforce demographics play in enhancing or challenging its effectiveness in reducing carbon footprints?

Andrew Barnes:

Well, I will say at the outset, Des, we have not done direct testing on environmental outcomes. What we’ve done in our research to date, is that we have asked people to tell us what they do in their additional time off. What we’re seeing is about 42% of employees are doing low-carbon activity in that additional day. There is anecdotal evidence and then there are studies like Henley’s, which are starting to paint a picture.

But it is where we want to take our research next time, is actually to say we need to get to that point when we really start to understand the impact on the environment. But it looks as though we’re pretty clear people are not doing high-carbon activity on their day off. It does benefit the economy because you’re taking vehicles off the roads, that in turn benefits carbon emissions because you have less congestion.

We’re starting to see that data come out from a number of the trials. Now equally, very importantly, we found that when we implement a four-day week, that disproportionately males do more housework and caring responsibilities, and the number goes up by about 22% when we’re talking about how do we tackle this problem of the gender pay balance? And a lot of that, of course, is linked to the amount of time that people have got to spend with their families.

What we’re finding is one, it makes it easier for women to get to those senior positions. They’re not instantaneously negotiating a four-day week on four days pay, which contributes materially to the pay gap. They’re actually able to do four days a week with a higher level of output. Your married women and women with families are often the most productive members of your team because they’re good at managing time.

You end up with that addresses that problem, but actually it also takes away the impediment from male employees, from actually taking up their fair share of care responsibilities. Because often, there’s an environment where work is intruded into home life. It’s not a silver bullet, but it does appear to move the dial materially when it comes to equality.

Des Dearlove:

No, that’s interesting on the sustainability point too. Because it’s quite nice to think we might be having the last laugh at Henry Ford, because he wanted to have a five-day week in order to get people out in their cars. By going to a four-day week, hopefully people are spending less time in their cars and less time polluting the planet, so that’s good news. We’ve got lots of questions coming in.

Let me take another one. Here we go. Okay, interesting. How does the four-day workweek model foster innovation and creativity among employees from diverse fields? What mechanisms are in place to ensure that it equally benefits workers in both knowledge-based and service-oriented sectors? It’s quite a big question, but I’m interested in the impact on creativity and whether you find it helps innovation.

Andrew Barnes:

Well, the short answer is yes, it does. We actually did test this. The reason it does, is because actually you are freeing your people in the company to tell you how they can make the company better and how they can make their work processes better. Now, all too often as business leaders, we do top-down. We sit there and say, “We’re going to bring in a consultant.”

The end of the result is we’re going to restructure that. We’re going to take some costs out, and all your employee hears is, “You want me to do more with less.” On this model, we say to the employee, “What are you going to do differently?” Now some of that, as I’ve said, is attitudinal. We found that internet surfing on the top five non-business-related internet sites dropped 35%.

Some of it is process and procedural, getting rid of overlong meetings. Microsoft Japan did that. Got a 39.9% improvement in productivity on restricting meetings to five people and no more than half an hour. Then you have things around people not taking personal phone calls. You have people focusing on having quiet hours and things like that where they can concentrate on work.

All of these initiatives come from the employees. But critically, all you’re looking for, if you are only productive for three hours a day, I only need 45 minutes of additional productivity to balance the books. What you get bizarrely is more creativity, more team engagement. If somebody’s going to be off every week, you can’t leave their job to be looked after by then picked up when they come back.

Somebody else has got to be able to pick it up, so you get much greater team cohesion, much greater creativity. Again, the scores are going off the scales with this stuff. Actually, you get more discussion going on in an organization rather than less. It’s perverse, but it’s actually a better approach than you might get if you’re just going straight from working from home, where you lose that team cohesion.

Des Dearlove:

That’s something I thought about, yeah. Do you insist that the people come into the office or are you flexible? What have you found there?

Andrew Barnes:

We don’t. The reason being is that at the heart of this, and this is the key to the four-day week, this is a discussion about output. Now what I’m interested in as a businessman is output. Am I getting what I’m paying you to do? Now that means I’ve got to be able to measure it. Now you think, “Well, that’s straightforward.” But I would be a very rich man if I got a dollar for every time that somebody said, “Well, how do you measure productivity?”

Now the answer to that, of course, is if you’re asking me that question, you are not measuring productivity. You are using time as a surrogate for productivity. What we did at the start, is we said to our people, “Right, okay. How do we prove that you are delivering what I want you to deliver?” The teams came up with lots of different measurements for us to assess whether productivity was remaining the same or not.

Now ultimately, I can see that in my revenue line, I can see it in my profitability line. I can see it in terms of the number of cases and things that we’re dealing with. But at its heart, it was actually the important thing, was shifting the discussion to output. How are we going to deliver the same level of output? Once you’ve done that, actually where you work is irrelevant, because we can measure whether you’re in the office or out of the office.

Now the pandemic came along and put rocket fuel under that particular issue, but nevertheless, that was at the heart of the premise. We actually, in my company, we have people who will come into the office. We have people who work at home, we have hybrids. Interestingly, we find with a four-day week, people are more likely to come into the office for the camaraderie, and not as worried because they get a full day off.

Personally, I don’t like working from home. The reason I don’t like it is because in my view, you’re not working from home, you’re sleeping in the office, and work, if you don’t put the boundaries around it, intrudes into home life. There is the temptation to do that little bit of work over the kitchen table late in the evening.

Des Dearlove:

Yeah. No, that does make sense. We’ve had a couple of questions about whether you’ve trialed this in emerging economies. I know you did mention earlier that you are trialing it.

I think we had a specific question about whether you’ve done the research in India. But Nadeem is asking, “Would you please share the impact of a four day workweek on economies which are developing?”

Andrew Barnes:

Well, the only piece of completed research we have on developing economies is South Africa. There were also companies participating in Botswana, Namibia and Kenya, I think, in that particular trial. The results, boringly, were absolutely consistent with the results we got in developed economies. Now it addresses different issues, right? The reason I say it addresses different issues is the big issue in South Africa is actually youth unemployment.

When you create a structure like the four-day week and you are able to enhance productivity, you then have an opportunity with the existing facilities in your company to create more jobs. That’s really what the South Africans are looking at. Now interestingly, prior to the conflict in Ukraine, it was what the Russians were looking at. Now in India, as I said, we’re about to launch one of our pilots in India.

Albeit there is some legislation going through in India that you can do a four-day week, but I think it’s linked to an incredibly long working week. That is, of course, not the model that we have. But we’ve also got these pilots running in a number of South American countries, which you probably would group into the developing country category as well. Now what’s interesting is that you’re seeing it work in the Middle East as well.

The UAE has gone to a four-day week. Not exactly the first country that I would’ve thought would’ve jumped on this particular bandwagon, but we are seeing that it does appear to be consistent. The reasons why you want it, the issues that it addresses can be different, but everybody is time-poor. That is regardless of where you are, whichever industry you’re in, whichever country you’re in.

Des Dearlove:

You mentioned youth unemployment in South Africa. I’m pleased to see Jenny Fernandez is with us.

Jenny says, “How can we leverage a four-day week to drive engagement in the younger generation? Does this translate to a sense of trust, reward and autonomy?” You’ve implied some of that.

Andrew Barnes:

Well, Jenny, I think it does. The reason I say that, is that what happens is because everybody takes time off. Now critically, by the way, the only people I made it compulsory to do a four-day week in my company were the senior leadership team. They have to walk the talk. It’s all well and good saying I’m going to do this, and then you’re firing your emails out late at night and on your day off.

That was a no-no. Now what happens is as a consequence, at some point in this journey, your team leader, your boss is not in the office. So who picks up the slack? What happens is, in fact, there is delegation, and because there’s delegation, we found that our junior staff actually loved the four-day week. Because for one day a week, their supervisor wasn’t there.

They were given the responsibility, the trust, rewards, the autonomy, to quote your question back. They were given that, and it was demonstrable that we were recognizing their contribution. Now the other thing about this is because the boss was away or the team leader was away, their role had to be picked up by somebody. Now that means you are starting to upscale cross-training your team.

That’s why I say when you look at team cohesion, creativity all went up because you have to find a different way of servicing your customer. And just because that person isn’t there, the business has to carry on. I think it’s a major contributor to creating that sort of culture, that we’re hoping to translate for the next generation.

Des Dearlove:

No, that’s interesting. I read a piece that you did with Happy Henry, who’s a great friend of the Thinkers50 and runs Happy Computers. Henry has this management tool that he calls pre-approval. He says the most useful thing he can do is get out of people’s way and get out of the office, and let them get on with it because he just slows things down.

What he says to them is, “I hired you, I trust you, you’re good people. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. Any decisions you make are pre-approved. You don’t have to ask me and I’ll get out of the way.” I think there’s a little bit of that going on. We’re leaving space for people to step into the spaces and take the responsibility as well. But also to realize that there is the trust there and that they can grow in the situation.

Andrew Barnes:

Yeah. Look, I think this is another side to this too, which is I’m very anti-gig. I really am. I don’t like it as a concept, and I don’t like it because there is no obligation on you to upskill, cross-train your employee. You just recruit somebody for that role. If you want somebody to do something else, then you recruit somebody else to do the role.

I think there’s no sick pay, holiday pay, all of the minimum wage, all the things that we fought for for years. This is making me sound exactly like the antithesis of a businessman, but I’m passionate about the fact that actually those are things that were very hard fought for. They are things that should underpin our society going forward.

We shouldn’t be arbitraging people’s future for short-term profit. What I see the four-day week does, is it gives the flexibility that people are looking forward to, especially younger employees, want that flexibility. Yes, they want the autonomy, the trust, the reward. They want the organization that’s doing something worthwhile, but actually flexibility is pretty critical.

So often, they sacrifice all those other things, which are pretty boring sounding, but very important for flexibility. I think that what we’re trying to do here is redress the balance. Create the flexibility, but actually try and keep it within the envelope of those protections for employees.

Des Dearlove:

Yeah. Now again, I was looking at your website earlier, and I know that you’ve tried these trials with more than 250 companies around the world. It’s a pretty big experiment by this point with over 100,000 staff. They’re taking part in these trials to change their workplace. I’m going to tie this into one of the questions we’ve got as well.

But have you found a business where this doesn’t work, won’t work, or is this really some sort of panacea? I will tie into a question because the question we have here is, “How does the four-day workweek model adapt to the unique operational and workforce needs of different sectors, such as healthcare, manufacturing, technology?”

What strategies can be employed to overcome industry-specific hurdles to its implementation? Now you were very clear saying actually it seems to work in just about every situation.

Andrew Barnes:

Well, let’s start from the basics. If you are saying that your company, your business, your industry cannot find a better way to do things, then we have reached the pinnacle of human achievement right here, right now. Okay? Now, I don’t happen to believe that. I happen to believe that if you harness the creativity and imagination of your workforce, that you will find a better way.

Now, as I always said, in fact, this is about the last chapter of my book, which is called Cows Need Milking Twice a Day. That was driven off a gentleman who was sitting next to me in an MP’s office in Wellington and said, “Well, it wouldn’t work in dairy.” I said, “Well, why wouldn’t it work in dairy farms?” He said, “Because cows need milking twice a day.”

Now, subsequently to me writing the book, a New Zealand company called Halter developed a piece of technology, which goes on your mobile phone. It means you could sit in your armchair, and send your cows to the milking parlor and back to the paddock. Now I use that as a classic example. That is something that literally has appeared in the last five years.

Now healthcare, the bad news is Stanford University Medical School is on a four-day week. The city of Golden police force in the United States is on a four-day week. By the way, their clear-up rates have improved. Who’d have thought? Probably less time eating doughnuts. Manufacturing, Volkswagen, Lamborghini, Panasonic are on a four-day week. There is a fish-and-chip shop …I always loved this, the most famous fish-and-chip shop in the world in the UK. That trial of the four-day week was the most famous fish-and-chip shop, because every single media crew in England went out to the fish-and-chip shop to do a piece on how you could do a four-day week in a fish-and-chip shop. It works in retail, it works in research, it works in technology.

Interestingly, one of the technology companies in the United States that trialed it, said that over a period of 18 months in a market that was red-hot for talent, they didn’t lose a single person. It impacts companies in different ways, but basically you are just saying to your people, “How can we together make our business better?” It will be attitudinal, it will be process, it will be procedures.

It will be the fact that, and I’m going out on a limb here, healthier, happier, more engaged employees are more productive.

Des Dearlove:

Amen to that. Do you see cultural differences? Does it work differently in Japan to how it would work in, you mentioned Panasonic?

Does it work differently in different parts of the world, or is there a universal attitude?

Andrew Barnes:

Look, I think time poverty is universal. As to how that impacts on society is different from country to country. This is why when we do our research, we always have a local research partner. Because we want to try and make sure that the cultural issues are picked up in our research, such that whilst we’re looking obviously for the overall benchmarks so that we can compare and contrast.

Actually, we’ve got to reflect the fact that things are different. For example, we’ve got some discussions going on in Saudi Arabia at the moment. Now, Saudi Arabia, their biggest problem is that the biggest cohort of unemployment is on graduate-educated women, in a conservative country where disproportionately care is in the hands of the woman.

What they’re looking at is actually if we trial this and we can address the balance a little bit, can we bring more professional women into the workforce? The issues may well be different culturally, but actually creating more time always enables a solution to be developed wherever you are in the world.

Des Dearlove:

No, that makes sense. One of the things I love about this movement that you’ve created, you and Charlotte created, it brings together scholars, the thinkers, the practitioners. We have a mantra at Thinkers50 where we say we have a very simple formula: Thinkers plus doers equals impact. You’ve got that going on. You’re really making a difference. 

We’re running out of time, but I have to ask you. If someone wants to go away and make a four-day week happen in their organization, where do they start?

Just as importantly, where can they find out more information about what you’re doing, and follow this movement as it continues to sweep the world?

Andrew Barnes:

Well, first of all, go to the four-day week website, so On that website, you will find our research, how you can engage, how you can do your own pilot, how you can join one of our schemes, read the book. There is a whole community out there now of people, and we’re all a little evangelical. We shouldn’t be, but we are, and now we’re a bit evangelical.

You will find that the community is incredibly generous. That there is always somebody who has tried it somewhere in your company, in your industry, in your sector, who will take the time to say, “This is what we did. Try this.” The start point though is go to the website, have a look at what we’re doing and join the revolution. We are changing the world one company at a time.

We have a goal to create a million years of free time. I expect that we will achieve that actually far quicker than anybody ever believed five years ago.

Des Dearlove:

Brilliant, I love that. You heard it here, join the Revolution, which is a Thinkers50 thing too. We’re changing the world one organization, one idea, at a time, so that’s fantastic. Andrew, huge thank you. Really enjoyed our chat.

I didn’t even get to talk to you about the Peking to Paris rally and what you’re spending your free time doing, but I think you’re doing that again for the second year. That starts in May you’ll be-

Andrew Barnes:

It does in May. Yeah, it does in May. The last time we did it, halfway across Siberia, we got a phone call from our guys in Auckland that said we’d just been name-checked by the prime minister of Russia who’d read about the four-day week and the trial and said it was the future for Russia. So there you go. It’d be interesting to see whether we get a call from Kazakhstan or China this time.

Des Dearlove:

Very exciting! Fantastic. A huge thank you to Andrew. 

Please join us on Wednesday, 20th of March, at the same time when our guest will be Hamilton Mann.

We’ll be exploring how digital innovations can help make a better future for all of us. Please do join us then.

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