Loading articles...

Could four-day work week spark Canadian economy after COVID-19?

Last Updated May 21, 2020 at 9:38 am MDT

WINNIPEG (CITYNEWS) – One country is flirting with the idea of a four-day work week to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic. Could Canada follow suit?

While the idea is generating mixed reviews, New Zealand’s prime minister believes the four-day work week could help the country’s economy bounce back after the devastating impact of COVID-19.

“How can we support New Zealanders to make the most of travelling around the country?” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “And some have been saying, ‘well if they had a bit more flexibility in terms of their travel and their leave, they might be able to do that.’

“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week.”

The concept would see employees get an extra day off, each week, while maintaining a full salary. The change would maintain workplace productivity and allow for a boost in tourism as more people would be taking advantage of the three-day weekend.

Travel Manitoba CEO Colin Ferguson says while it’s an innovative idea, there are big hurdles to clear for it to work in Canada.

“One, you’ve got to encourage all businesses to participate in the programme,” said Ferguson. “Two, you’re still dealing with issues of consumer confidence and it’s going to take a bit of time for consumers to get comfortable booking hotels, booking resorts and moving in larger crowds.”

Ferguson says countries are looking at each other to see what strategies could work as health restrictions ease and businesses start to open their doors.

“Its innovative,” he said. “Do I think it will work? I don’t know. But it will be really interesting to watch it and follow that.”

The idea of a four-day work week is not new.

Microsoft Japan tested the idea last year by doing four-day work weeks with five days of pay. The result: a 40 per cent boost in employee productivity.

Also last year, New Zealand’s financial services firm Perpetual Guardian let employees work a four-day week and found it made them happier and the company more profitable.

Jonathan Alward of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business believes a four-day work week is not an idea most of the group’s members he recently surveyed would like to see happen.

Alward says business owners trying to reopen stores are facing serious staffing shortages, and the general feeling is that now isn’t the time to experiment with the economy.

“There are a whole host of issues creating concerns for business trying to get the staff that they need to reopen, get our economy back to where it was before the pandemic,” said Alward. “If we’re going to a shorter work week, this is really going to compound those problems.”