A growing number of Australian companies are allowing employees to work four days a week instead of five, with no loss of pay.
A new Indeed study shows that the number of job postings listing a four-day work week has increased in recent years.
Proponents of the four-day week have said the five-day pattern is a “hangover” from an earlier economic era.
They also argue that a four-day workweek would push more companies to improve productivity, meaning they could create the same output, just in fewer hours.
“In October, 0.8 percent of job postings on Indeed listed “4-day work week” or some other variation of that term,” said Indeed senior economist Callam Pickering.
That is more than 0.6 percent in October last year, 0.5 percent in October 2020 and 0.4 percent in October 2019. In 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 survey of 2,003 Australian workers and job seekers revealed that 61 per cent thought a four-day work week would become “increasingly important” to them over the next two years.
Bosses say they are open to introducing a four-day work week, with 70 percent 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 take up new hobbies or interests during the extended weekend
Indeed, organizational psychologist Amanda Gordon says a four-day work week could help Aussies be happier at work.
‘People say they are happier if they can do their work in four days and have an extra day to do other things. They feel less rushed.’
However, some jobs don’t fit with a four-day work week, Gordon explained, including jobs that took a certain amount of time or jobs that were charged by the hour.
‘There are jobs where it is not possible. But for many jobs it’s about being able to concentrate on what you’re doing,” said Gordon.
The four-day work week is gaining popularity around the world after a number of successful trials.
Many companies encourage patron staff to take more care of their children or elderly parents, volunteer, or take up new hobbies or interests during the extended weekend.
Following a successful trial in New Zealand, Unilever is expanding its four-day workweek program to Australia.
The company behind Dove, Ben & Jerry’s, Lynx, Magnum and many other big brands is the largest company to support the radical new work system after testing 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 trial succeeds in Australia
About 80 employees were paid full pay during the trial, and bosses noted an improvement in employee satisfaction.
In New Zealand, which remains on the four-day schedule, absenteeism at Unilever fell by a third, as did stress and work-life conflict.
More than half of Australia’s 900 workers are transitioning to a four-day pattern.
Factory workers on shifts are not included.
Employees are not expected to work longer hours and can choose which day they take off.
A four-day work week is being piloted in workplaces around the world. Companies report higher employee satisfaction and the same level or improvement in productivity
Much of the savings came from cutting meetings 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 pilot is successful in Australia.
In addition to the four-day working week, Unilever employees are also allowed to work from home on two days. have registered here for the first structured four-day programme.
Other Australian companies trying out the four-day workweek include Canberra-based lender More Than Mortgages, Queensland-based Momentum Mental Health and several Melbourne-based participants, including advertising agency Versa, non-profit technology provider Our Community and digital marketing firm The Walk.
But unlike Unilever, the employees of these companies have agreed to do the same amount of work as they did in five days instead of four, which for many will mean working more hours a day.
Denna Ezzy, director of More than Mortgages, told The AFR her staff planned to “slog out” to get an extra day off.
“Our mindset is to work really hard and do what you have to do to get it done, so it’s a real shift for us to go from really rushing and slogging to how do we get this all done in four days,” she said.
Our community CEO Denis Moriarty told 7News that his organization is involved because the pandemic has shown that it can rely on its staff to figure out how they want to work while maintaining their productivity.
“We’re mainly responding to the shift we’re seeing where employees are getting more say in how they want their work to look in the future.”
Pros and cons of a four-day work week
- Fewer distractions at work
- Longer hours don’t mean more output
- Increased mental well-being and physical health
- Parents with children notice that they are less stressed
- Reduced ecological footprint
- Not all sectors can participate
- It can increase existing inequalities
- The cost risk for employers is expensive
- Employees are allowed to work the same hours anyway
- Difficult team management
Source: Adecco group