“Everyone will love it”: four-day work week could help rebuild Canada’s economy after COVID-19, experts say


The dream of a four-day work week is no longer unthinkable.

But could it actually be a panacea for a country looking to rebuild a post-corona economy?

The idea was recently given a boost when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched it to help the country reopen after the foreclosure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it may not be as far-fetched as it would have looked like just a few months ago, before the closings, which paralyzed Canada, New Zealand and many countries around the world.

“This is an opportunity to rethink how we do things to make them better in the long term,” said John Traugakos, associate professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

Professor Traugakos has been studying how to make workplaces and people healthier and more productive for over 12 years, and said that four-day work weeks could be beneficial.

It is important to consider the pros and cons and to be flexible, he said, adding that the time has come to consider new work approaches.

“More forward-thinking companies should start thinking about it now,” he said, noting that this is a good time to upset preexisting dynamics. “People are open to the fact that changes are happening.”

The status quo work week from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. dates back roughly to the industrial revolution and the Ford assembly line in the early 1900s.

“We have never really changed that,” said Professor Truagakos, noting that a review was overdue. The way people work is now more sedentary and digital and involves a range of other changes in the Western world.

Everyone will love it

And the current model is not necessarily ideal. Professor Truagakos estimates that stress and burnout cost North American businesses between $ 3 billion and $ 6 billion a year.

“There is no single solution,” he said, but a four-day work week might be a good solution in some cases.

Chris Higgins, professor emeritus at Ivey Business School at Western University, said that a compressed four-day workweek might work for white-collar workers.

“It’s perfect for white-collar workers,” said Professor Higgins. “Everyone will love it. “

However, for blue-collar workers, the idea of ​​four 10-hour workdays per week is more problematic, he said, noting that some of them could become more tired, leading to more accidents and sick leave.

Nevertheless, he estimates that for about 30 or 40% of the population, four-day work weeks could be achievable and beneficial.

In 2018, Perpetual Guardian, an estate planning company in New Zealand, moved to the shorter week and saw an increase in productivity and employees, who had more time for family and leisure, were happier.

Similarly, Microsoft Japan tested the idea in August 2019 and saw its productivity increase by 40% and the costs of electricity and paper decrease.

Ardern reported the tourism sector in New Zealand, which employs 15% of the population and contributes around $ 13.8 billion to the country’s gross domestic product, as part of the economy that could benefit people having long weekends.

Similarly, in Canada, tourism plays an important role in the economy, where it is valued at $ 102 billion a year. Before COVID, it was the fifth largest sector in the country, surpassing telecommunications and mining and employing 1.8 million Canadians.

“The prospects are dire at the moment,” said Charlotte Bell, President and CEO of the Tourist Office. Industry Association of Canada.

“The tourism sector has been the first affected, the hardest hit and will likely take the most time to recover from the pandemic,” she said.

The latest Statistics Canada data shows that the tourism economy lost 881,000 jobs in March and April, accounting for almost 50% of the workforce.

“Recent data prepared by Tourism Economics estimates that in the best-case scenario, spending by domestic travelers could fall to $ 54.9 billion in 2020, down 33% from 2019,” she said. declared. “In the worst-case scenario, they estimate spending by domestic travelers should drop to $ 34.8 billion, down 58% from 2019.”

While domestic travel alone cannot save the industry, it should help it recover.

Andrew Weir, executive vice president of Tourism Toronto, said the country’s largest city has 10 years of growth in the sector, with approximately 28.1 million visitors, spending approximately $ 5 billion in the city annually last.

About 6.4 million of them were national visitors, who spent around $ 2 billion, and since they are the ones who will likely be able to visit at some point this year, they will play a vital role in any recovery .

“Domestic travel is going to be of vital importance,” said Weir.

“I think we will see more people taking shorter trips,” he said, adding that long weekends could help.

It is expected that more visitors will travel and that the borders will open at the provincial and national levels, there will be a domino effect.

Open to options

However, it will take a lot of effort and creativity to rebuild the industry, said Weir, noting that all options should be considered.

About 46% of Canadians plan to take a summer vacation this year, according to a recent study by the Conference Board of Canada, a non-profit think tank. This is down from 79% last year.

Among those who plan to travel, 66% plan to take their long summer vacation to Canada, compared to 52% last year.

“COVID clearly has a significant impact on the willingness or ability of people to travel at this time,” said Robyn Gibbard, senior economist on the board. “So even if the total number of trips by Canadians will decrease this year, there will be some shift towards the domestic trips of people who would otherwise have made international trips.”

According to Pedro Antunes, chief economist of the council, travel restrictions and the fear of an epidemic will limit spending on international tourism until a vaccine or effective treatment is available.

Experts agree that if and when an effective vaccine or treatment is found for COVID-19, it should go a long way in helping the country’s overall recovery.

In the meantime, Professor Traugakos said Canada is in a transition phase and, if well managed, could emerge with a new workplace culture that benefits employees and businesses.

Being flexible and open to options is an approach that Ardern also supports.

“This is an extraordinary time and we must be ready to consider extraordinary ideas,” she said.


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