A growing number of Australian companies are allowing employees to work four days a week instead of five without losing any pay.
A new study from Indeed has found the number of job ads mentioning a four-day work week increased in recent years.
Advocates of the four-day week have said that the five-day pattern is a ‘hangover’ from an earlier economic age.
They also argue that a four-day-week would drive more companies to improve their productivity, meaning they can create the same output, just in fewer hours.
‘In October, 0.8 per cent of job postings on Indeed mention “4 day work week” or some other variation of that term,’ Indeed senior economist Callam Pickering said.
‘That’s up from 0.6 per cent in October last year, 0.5 per cent in October 2020 and 0.4 per cent in October 2019. Over the past three years, the share of postings mentioning a four-day work week has more than doubled [up by 107 per cent].’
The data comes after a study of 2,003 Aussie workers and job seekers revealed 61 per cent thought a four-day workweek would be ‘increasingly important’ to them in the next two years.
Bosses say they’re open to introducing a four-day work week, with 70 per cent saying they were “very” to “fairly comfortable” with the idea.
Many companies encourage staff on the pattern to take more care of their children or elderly parents, volunteer or pick up new hobbies or interests during the extended weekend
Indeed organisational psychologist Amanda Gordon says a four-day workweek could help Aussies be happier on the job.
‘People talk about being happier when they can do their work in four days and have an extra day to do other things. They feel less rushed.’
However, some jobs would not suit a four-day working week, Gordon explained, including jobs that required a certain amount of time to do or jobs that charged by the hour.
‘There are some jobs where it is not possible. But for many jobs, the output is about being able to focus intently on what you are doing,’ Gordon said.
The four-day week is gaining traction across the world after a number of successful trials.
Many companies encourage staff on the pattern to take more care of their children or elderly parents, volunteer or pick up new hobbies or interests during the extended weekend.
After a successful trial in New Zealand, Unilever is expanding its four-day working week programme to Australia.
The firm behind Dove, Ben & Jerry’s, Lynx, Magnum and many other major brands is the largest company to back the radical new work system after piloting it for 18 months in its New Zealand offices.
Unilever, whose CEO is Alan Jope (pictured), said the new system could be rolled out across its offices to 148,000 employees if the Australia trial succeeds
Around 80 staff were paid full salaries during the trial, and bosses noted there was an improvement in worker satisfaction.
In New Zealand, which will remain on the four-day rota, absenteeism dropped by a third at Unilever and stress and work-life conflict also lessened.
More than half of the 900 employees based in Australia will move to a four-day pattern.
This will not include shift-based factory workers.
Staff are not expected to work longer hours and are able to choose which day they take off.
A four-day work week is being trialled in workplaces across the globe. Companies are reporting higher staff satisfaction and either the same level or an improvement in productivity
Much of the savings came from scrapping meetings by up to 3.5 hours per person per week, and staff were encouraged to send fewer emails.
Unilever said the new system could be rolled out across its offices to 148,000 employees if the Australia trial succeeds.
On top of the four-day week, Unilever staff are also allowed to work from home on two of the days.have signed up for the first structured four-day week program run here.
Other Australian companies trialling the four-day work week include Canberra lending firm More Than Mortgages, Queensland’s Momentum Mental Health and several Melbourne participants, including ad agency, Versa, non-profit technology provider Our Community and digital marketing company The Walk.
However unlike Unilever, employees at these companies have agreed to deliver the same amount of work they did in five days over four, which for many will mean longer hours each day.
Denna Ezzy, director of More than Mortgages, told The AFR her staff planned to ‘slog it out’ to get an extra day off.
‘Our mindset is work really hard and do whatever you’ve got to do to get it done so it’s a real shift for us to go from really hustling and slogging it out to how will we get this all done in four days,’ she said.
Our Community CEO Denis Moriarty told 7News his organisation is involved because the pandemic has shown it can trust staff to figure out how they want to work but maintain their productivity.
‘Most of all, we are responding to the shift we are seeing with employees having more of a voice about what they want work to look like in the future.’
Pros and cons of a four-day week
- Fewer distractions at work
- Longer hours does not mean more output
- Increased mental wellbeing and physical health
- Parents with children find themselves less stressed out
- Lowered carbon footprint
- Not all industries can participate
- It might widen existing inequalities
- The cost risk for employers is expensive
- Workers may put in the same hours anyways
- Difficult team management
Source: Adecco Group