For some time, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has commanded global attention for her exemplary leadership skills.  

In a recent Facebook Live, Ardern suggested the idea of a four-day work week as a means of encouraging domestic tourism and stimulating the economy as it recovers from the coronavirus outbreak.

“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day workweek. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees,” PM Ardern 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.”

With borders still closed to non-residents, Ardern also noted that 60% of New Zealand’s tourism industry comes from locals. A shortened work week could enable New Zealanders to help resuscitate tourism across the country.

This is another move that is set to boost Ardern’s popularity even further. New Zealand’s swift and strict lockdown was one of the first, and the approach garnered praise from across the globe. As Europe continue to be overwhelmed with deaths in the thousands, New Zealand has only reported 21 deaths and for the third day records no new cases – signalling the possible end of the virus in the country.

The stringent lockdown enabled New Zealanders to be one of the first to slowly return to normalcy. A recent poll found that Ardern is the most popular leader in 100 years with 92% of respondents happy with Ardern’s government response to the pandemic.  

This isn’t the first time that Ardern has been praised for her leadership. After the horrific 2019 Christ Church massacre, she not only led with empathy, but with action. Soon after the shootings, legislation was passed to significantly restrict semi-automatic weapons and introduce a ‘buy back’ scheme for gun owners to hand in their weapons.

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Four Day Work Week

The proposed shortened work week isn’t a new phenomenon. Even before the global pandemic completely upturned our way of living and working, there was discourse surrounding the idea and how it could improve the work-life balance in several countries.

In 2019, Microsoft trialled the concept at its Japan offices. According to reports, the trial resulted in productive outcomes with employee’s productivity increasing by 40%.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has also spoken for the four-day week.

Similarly, the UK Labour party included the proposal in its manifesto, however, were defeated by the Conservative party.

In a rush to return to the way things were,  leaders are seeing the opportunity to emerge post-pandemic as a new and improved society.

Aisha Mohamed