Nearly two-thirds of Australians believe working five days a week could soon be a thing of the past as workplaces appear to embrace a new four-day normal, according to a new survey.
Nearly half of the 42,000 workers surveyed in a recent poll by recruitment firm Hays think they will be working four days a week in five years, while another 16 percent said they would be in 12 months
Another fifth said they thought it would take another ten years to achieve this, while the remaining fifth said the four-day work week will never come.
It’s because research shows that a three-day weekend can be like a little vacation, improving workers’ health, while unions say Aussies are working longer hours and finding it increasingly difficult to balance work and personal life.
Nearly two-thirds of Australians believe working five days a week could soon be a thing of the past as workplaces appear to embrace a new four-day normal, according to a new survey
“The optimism and aspirations of the workers are clear,” Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays Australia New Zealand, told AAP.
“Obviously, from an employee’s point of view, that shows that’s what their expectation is,” he said.
Many employers remain hesitant to switch to a four-day work week as they face potential productivity drops, he said.
“I think that’s one of the crucial elements, can we still run our business effectively? Can we still maintain high productivity and not jeopardize the bottom line?’
But the move to a four-day work week could affect staff retention rates and where employees want to work, he said.
The four-day work week could provide relief for staff who took on more during the pandemic, when skills and labor were in short supply.
“Employees have really had to step up and take on bigger loads, and I think there’s a limit to how long people can or want to do that,” Mr Deligiannis said.
Work-life balance is much discussed but rarely achieved for most workers, says ACTU Secretary Sally McManus.
“Australians work some of the longest hours in the developed world, it’s definitely about time we cut them down and share hours with those who want more,” Ms McManus told AAP.
‘A four-day work week is something we have to take into account.’
A 13-month study from the University of South Australia that looked at the benefits of time away from work found that people who were on holiday were more likely to be active, socialize and get more sleep.
While the benefits increased in proportion to the length of the holiday, there were even positive results from a three-day weekend.
“This study provides empirical evidence that people have a healthier lifestyle when they have a short break, such as a three-day weekend,” says senior researcher Carol Maher.
Earlier this month, a parliamentary committee called for a government-backed trial of the four-day work week to see how it improved people’s lives.
The trial would be based on the 100:80:100 model, where employees keep their pay and maintain their productivity, but lose one day of work.
A number of Australian companies have already made the shift, including Unilever, Bright Agency and fintech firm Indebted.
Unilever decided to expand their trial to Australia after promising results in New Zealand, where absenteeism fell by a third and sales grew over an 18-month period.
A four-day work week could be a tool to give a company a competitive edge, said Unliever’s CEO for Australia and New Zealand, Nicky Sparshott, at the trial launch last year.
“This is about trying new ways to break down the barriers that might limit value creation and slow us down,” he said.