Date posted: 01/02/2024 8 min read

Packing five days into four

Could your company work a four-day week without sacrificing performance? Two accounting firms who have made the move share their advice on how to make a four-day week work.

Quick take

  • Two accounting firms in New Zealand and Australia have moved to a four-day week, without compromising productivity and with increases in staff wellbeing.
  • One key to success is to offer four days as an incentive to staff, where staff have to keep meeting performance targets in order to retain the right to work a shorter week.
  • Adopting the four-day week may result in the need to cut back on hybrid working in order to preserve team culture in the office.

Can a company operate four days a week and maintain its productivity, while still paying its staff a full-time salary?

This scenario may sound like the musings of a harebrained academic, yet mounting evidence from companies around the world undertaking trials of the 100:80:100 model (100% pay, 80% time, 100% productivity) suggests it can be achieved.

A New Zealand accounting firm and an Australian accounting firm are adding to that weight of evidence. Nearly 18 months on from the start of their trials with the reduced-hour working model 4 Day Week Global, Frank Accounting and ABA Advice Beyond Accounting are still operating on four days. And, the signs are positive.

Auckland firm Frank is working 35 hours a week instead of 45 hours, and productivity among its 25 staff has gone from 29 hours to 30 hours, despite working one day less. Work satisfaction is high and staff are happier.

Queensland firm ABA has maintained its productivity levels, its 17 staff are enjoying more time with family and friends, and personal leave, sick leave and mental-health service rates are all down.

There have, however, been plenty of challenges. For any firm considering making the transition to four days, there are lessons to be heeded.

Director-supported but team-owned

Moving to a four-day week was the idea of Frank director Greg Byers CA. A six-month stint in Rarotonga with his wife and two of his kids offered a fresh perspective about the firm he had been running nonstop for 15 years. He now lives in Rarotonga and commutes to Auckland.

“I realised there needed to be more balance around work and life, particularly with my kids growing up. I decided it was time for change,” Byers says. “I brought another partner in and he was super keen to do four days as well. So, the two of us are very aligned.”

When the 4 Day Week Global trial opened, Byers says it was an ideal opportunity for the firm because the model had been tried and tested. In preparation, he and his partner read up about the model and their reading material included the book, The 4 Day Week by founder of 4 Day Week Global, Andrew Barnes.

Then they handed over the adoption of the four-day working week (4DWW) model to the team, who now own it.

“One of the premises of the model is that it needs to be team-led. Obviously, we had to agree with what they designed and there were certain things we vetoed because they wouldn’t have worked for the business, such as flexibility around the chosen day off,” says Byers. “Now, if something is not working, the team want to address it quickly, because they know if standards drop or productivity decreases or chargeable hours go down, then their four days is at risk. They have actually become far more self-governing, which has been good.”

A benefit, not a right

At Frank, the 4DWW model is a benefit the team earns by continually meeting its performance targets. It is the same over at ABA, but that was not always the case.

A 4DWW was also director-led at ABA. When the firm undertook the Australasian trial it continued to use quarterly measurements of productivity. At the end of the six-month trial, ABA’s general manager Nicole Holden says they had to inform the team that the trial had failed.

“We thought we had enough measurables in place, but the reality is a quarter is a long time to get behind. Once we realised we were running behind, it was too late to catch-up,” says Holden.

Having observed improvements in employee wellbeing during the trial, ABA decided to roll out a rebranded version of the 4DWW model, where four days are offered to staff on a monthly basis, provided teams meet their monthly targets.

“We held four or five whole team meetings where we decided what the measurables would be and what was a reasonable workflow,” says Holden. “If one or two team members have something big on their plate and their workflow slows, we can redeploy work where it needs to go. We come together to make sure the whole team stays on track. Instead of having a lagging number, we are now in front. And it’s given staff the clarity they’ve always wanted.”

Under their new 4DWW model, ABA staff’s billable hours are around 29 hours. Despite the firm charging clients a fixed fee, staff still fill out timesheets, so everyone knows they are at the right price point for each client and to ensure the client is not being over-serviced.

“We’ve focused on maintaining revenue and made sure we’re not over-servicing clients and doing things they should be doing for themselves. Our efficiency has increased dramatically,” Holden says.

End of the hybrid model?

One key change both firms had to make was to pull back on their hybrid work policies. Before their 4DWW adoption, Frank’s only in-the-office day was Tuesday. Now staff must be present at least three days between Monday and Thursday, and all staff have Friday off.

“I understand a lot of businesses globally are doing this at the moment,” Byers says.

“It’s kind of gone from the sublime to the ridiculous for people coming in one day a week. We don’t want a business of high-performing individual contributors.

We want a high-performing team, and if people aren’t together it starts to become problematic.”

Annual leave and public holidays also required tweaking. If there is a public holiday or annual leave day during the week, staff are expected to work the Friday or make-up the hours in the evening or over the weekend. ABA initially kept the work-from-home policy unchanged and asked staff to take-off alternating Fridays and Mondays, so every second weekend was a four-day weekend. Holden says staff found four days too long to be away from work. Under the revised model, staff can choose their rostered day off, but they have to be present in the office for the other four days.

“We started to see a decline in culture and also frustration with trying to book team meetings because we didn’t all have a set day off. Essentially, we now get three days together because most people want Mondays or Fridays off,” she says.

“Any week that has a public holiday or you take annual leave, you can’t still have your chosen day off. So, it’s still four days of work.”

“If our profession embraces things like the four-day week, it’s going to hopefully do something to turn the tide of young people not entering the profession.”
Greg Byers CA, Frank Accounting

Recruits need special attention

New staff who had not been part of the transition posed another challenge. Both firms have decided weaning them on to the 4DWW model is best.

At ABA, new recruits must hit productivity targets for three months straight, before they can qualify to work four days. New staff at Frank were originally offered the model straight away, but Byers quickly learned that because the new staff member had not been part of the rigorous adoption process with the team, their productivity came in around the 70% mark instead of above 90%.

“We’ve had to bring new people in on the journey, otherwise the rest of the team who have worked really hard can become resentful because the new staff member might be compromising or jeopardising the model’s existence,” he says.

According to 4DWW trial results, improving staff retention and attraction are common benefits of the model. That’s why Byers was surprised when one of their young stars left to work abroad and said in the exit interview that she liked the 4DWW model, but it was not enough to keep her in the role.

“She did say that if she comes back to New Zealand, the four-day week would be an inducement to return to Frank, especially if she’s coming back to start a family,” Byers says.

He did however find a silver lining with another demographic.

“My son works for us at the moment on his holidays and he thinks it’s the best holiday job he’s had. If our profession embraces things like the four-day week, it’s going to hopefully do something to turn the tide of young people not entering the profession,” he says.

Research supports clear themes

It is still early days for the 4DWW model in terms of empirical research and data. Adjunct professor Tony Veal at the University of Technology Sydney, an expert in leisure, is keen to see more data around the employer experience.

“I think it’s pretty clear that it works for employees. But what is missing from the reports on the trials is hard-nosed data from employers,” says Veal.

Swinburne University of Technology published a report in June 2023 – Emerging Four Day Work Week Trends in Australia – based on interviews with leaders from 10 Australian firms who had adopted the four-day week, four of whom participated in the Australasian trial. The report highlights themes common to Frank and ABA’s experiences. Productivity went up or stayed the same for the firms, employee wellbeing increased and so did staff retention and attraction levels, and public holidays or annual leave days trumped staff’s regular day off.

Most firms also used the model as an incentive to get more work done in less time, says report co-author associate professor John Hopkins of Swinburne University.

“It’s a really good opportunity to look at what you do and cut out waste. You could do that without the four-day week, but then it’s just another productivity gain for the firm without the individual employee gaining anything,” says Hopkins.

“We have been stuck with the mindset of a five-day week for the last 100 years despite advancements in technology and productivity. Yet none of those gains has ever been invested or gifted back to employees.

“One of the biggest question marks hanging over the 4DWW is whether it will work in the longer term but if you’re getting improved productivity, better recruitment, lower sickness and better staff retention for, say, three-to-five years, that’s a huge achievement in itself.”

Tips for making the leap to four days

1. Do your research. Speak to other firms who have already done it and read up about it, says associate professor John Hopkins from Swinburne University. Andrew Barnes’ book The 4 Day Week is popular among trial participants. Through WorkFLEX, Hopkins offers an online course for managers wanting to prepare for the trial. Go to: and use the code ‘ACUITY30’ to get a 30% discount.

2. Participate in a trial. Frank director Greg Byers CA says the four-day work week (4DWW) model is not something you want to try by yourself. To help companies get the transition right Byers suggests participating in the 4 Day Week Global pilot program because “they charge almost nothing” and he believes in the benefits of comparing notes with companies on a similar timeline. See:

3. Do a pilot of at least six months. Hopkins says 12 months is even better, and that everybody needs to be onboard the pilot and not to expect to get it 100% right the first time.

4. Empower teams to lead it. Both companies, Frank and ABA did this. Their teams are now co-owners of the process and they make sure targets are being met, so they can continue to benefit from the 4DWW model.

5. Define clear measurables and measure them regularly. ABA regretted not having clear measurables and weekly workflow meetings from the outset. Now they have them in place, staff appreciate the transparency. ABA general manager Nicole Holden says management hours went up initially to set everything up, but have since returned to a baseline.

6. The same day off. Frank made their day off Friday because Friday was their least productive day and having the same day off is easy to communicate to clients. ABA allows people to choose, but Holden recommends you ensure each team within your firm agrees how they are going to manage client communications.

7. Don’t boast to clients. Frank staff initially sent out-of-office messages to clients on Fridays and clients ‘felt like their faces were being rubbed in it’. Byers now recommends staff employ a more subtle approach.