Case Study 05. Tammy Barker
Tammy Barker is a Branch Manager at Perpetual Guardian. She gives her take on the Four-Day Week as an employee of the organisation.
Ensure individual plans for every member of your team to maintain and even improve productivity.
Work out how people will be accountable and how their productivity will be measured so real outcomes rather than straight data are taken into account.
Bring people in from the beginning to get better buy-in and to guard against an ‘us and them’ mentality.
Treat staff like adults and they and they’ll act like adults when it comes to problem-solving and conflict resolution.
Full interview with Tammy Barker
When I first heard about the Four-Day Week I was a bit suspicious. I was interested but I wondered what the catch was. But as we were taken through the proposal, I realised that there wasn’t a catch and I thought all my Christmases had come at once.
My experience of the trial was two-fold: there was how things changed at work and how they changed at home. From the work perspective, the introduction of the Four-Day Week trial did represent a new approach to work in that I was constantly challenging myself to do things differently. I found I was really focussing on one task from beginning to end rather than just jumping from one thing to the next. The result was that I was actually finishing projects before moving on to the next one, and by the end of the day found I was accomplishing more than trying to multi-task everything.
I did find that my productivity increased purely by being more aware of my work processes and thinking about how I was doing things and why I was doing them. At the same time, I didn’t feel any more stressed at work probably because I was really focussing on the tasks at hand and because I had the extra day off to compensate for the increased work rate.
I took Wednesdays off, which meant I had two days of really concentrating on work, then a day off, then another two days of really focussing on what needed to be done. This proved to work well for me.
On the home front and from a personal perspective it was great. I’ve got two small kids so to have an extra day to do home stuff was incredibly useful. I used my ‘rest day’ for catching up on home admin rather than doing anything new.
I did things like grocery shopping by myself without the kids in tow and attended personal appointments that I might otherwise have done at the weekend. The advantage of this was that I had a two-day weekend to spend with my family, which was really valuable.
In my experience there wasn’t really any downside to the Four-Day Week trial and completing five days of work in four. I believe this was because before the trial started, we put a lot of planning in place to ensure we only had one key person out of the office at any one time.
As far as the support office was concerned, we never had any issues in terms of not being able to get things done, as there was always somebody to take the place of a person you might have been dealing with.
Based on my experience, the Four-Day Week is an initiative that I would recommend be taken up by other businesses in New Zealand and around the world. Many companies talk about how their people are their biggest assets but talking about it doesn’t really help the situation. This initiative is something that really shows you are committed to doing something different that has a beneficial impact for everyone concerned.
Most employees are struggling to achieve a successful work-life balance and to have one ‘rest day’ per week really helps people perform to the best of their ability at work while having a fulfilling life outside of work.
Following the success of the trial, I’m excited about the policy being rolled out across the company on a full-time basis. As a team manager it will present certain challenges, but the net benefit for myself and my team is clear.
It’s a privilege to be part of this initiative and the idea that it will be permanently introduced has certainly raised morale across my team and the whole workforce.
The biggest concern from an employer point of view is ensuring that the full-time introduction of the policy doesn’t lead to complacency, with the risk that people’s productivity will slip back. To guard against this happening we’ve spent a lot of time making sure every person in every team has their own plan as to how they’re going to maintain and even improve their productivity.
We’ve also spent a lot of time working out how people will be held accountable to those plans and how we measure productivity so real outcomes are taken into account rather than straight data that might have been focussed on during the trial.
What we’ve seen is that if you bring people in from the beginning, you’re going to get better buy-in and a lot less ‘us and them’ with everyone working together as a team. We’ve been treated like adults and I think as a result everyone is behaving like adults and is prepared to overcome any challenges that might occur.
I think work time structures in many businesses need to change and whether it’s a Four-Day Week or reduced working hours or some other way of doing things, the success of this trial shows businesses need to start trying to do things differently.