More than a dozen companies in Australia and New Zealand are set to take part in a four-day working week trial, just weeks after an identical trial began in the UK.
Thousands of UK workers at 70 companies started the pilot this week.
In Australia’s six-month pilot, to begin in August, employees at 20 companies work one less day a week with no cut to their pay.
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The trade-off for workers receiving 100 per cent of their pay for working only 80 per cent of their usual week is that they maintain 100 per cent of their productivity.
Australia and New Zealand companies taking part range from a marketing and communications agency to a health and wellbeing organisation. Technology firm Our Community is among them.
“Our Community has been a traditional office-based company and, with what we have learned in the past two years, we are now in a position to implement changes, trust employees to maintain productivity and make sure work-life balance is supported,” CEO Denis Moriarty said.
“Most of all, we are responding to the shift we are seeing with employees having more of a voice about what they want to work to look like in the future.
“Companies cannot grow, achieve social impact or reach amazing valuations and new heights without their staff.
“It’s time we as leaders find ways to return some of this investment to them, not just in wages, bonuses and equity, but with time, so they can use the rest of those things to build a life they love.”
The program is being run by not-for-profit 4 Day Week Global in partnership with researchers from Auckland University of Technology, University of Queensland, University of Sydney and Boston College.
Andrew Barnes, the entrepreneur who conceived the four-day week and went on to establish 4 Day Week Global, said the program is not just about work-life balance and productivity.
“We recognized well before the pandemic that the five-day week is no longer fit for purpose, and as we tried and studied the four-day week it became clear that this is a necessary part of the solution to restore climate balance, among many other documented benefits,” he said.
“We simply cannot go on as we have been, and we welcome the forward-thinking companies and business leaders in Australasia who are driving this change and showing the path forward.”
Identical pilots are also currently under way in Canada, the US and Ireland.
Until now, Iceland had conducted the biggest pilot of a shorter working week between 2015 and 2019, with 2,500 public sector workers involved in two large trials – which found no drop in productivity among participants, and a dramatic increase in employee well-being.
Calls to shorten the working week have gathered steam in recent years in several countries.
As millions of employees switched to remote work during the pandemic — cutting onerous commuting time and costs — calls for greater flexibility have only grown louder.
Government-backed trials are set to take place in Spain and Scotland later this year, the 4 Day Week Campaign said.
4 Day Week Global CEO Joe O’Connor said workers have shown they can work “shorter and smarter”.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge,” he said.
Researchers will measure the impact the new working pattern will have on productivity levels, gender equality, and the environment as well as worker well-being.
– with CNN