Employees at some Australian companies are now working four days a week with no reduction in pay.
Twenty companies in Australia and New Zealand began testing four-day weeks in early August.
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The six-month pilot study, being conducted by non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global, is still a long way from a successful launch, a company spokesman confirmed to 7NEWS.com.au.
Technology company Our Community is one of a handful of Australian companies taking part in the study.
Denis Moriarty, founder of Our Community, told 7NEWS in 22 years that he had never seen greater employee productivity.
“The work is just so much better,” he said.
“They get more work done in the four days … they come in more energetic and engaged.”
The pilot involves companies in industries ranging from finance to fashion, and follows similar trials around the world, for example in the UK, where thousands of workers in 70 companies tested the four-day work week back in June .
The trade-off for workers who earn 100 percent of their wages for working only 80 percent of their usual week is that they maintain 100 percent of their productivity.
Andrew Barnes, the entrepreneur who conceived the four-day workweek and later founded 4 Day Week Global, said the program isn’t just about work-life balance and productivity.
“We realized well before the pandemic that the five-day workweek was no longer serving its purpose, and as we tried and explored the four-day workweek, it became clear that among many, this was a necessary part of the recovery solution of climate balance are other documented benefits,” he said.
“We simply cannot continue as we have been, and we applaud the forward-thinking companies and business leaders in Australasia who are driving this change and leading the way forward.”
Push to ax the five-day week
Meanwhile, the Australian Nurse and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is urging the government to scrap the standard five-day workweek to boost productivity and change the way Australians work.
A federal parliamentary inquiry into the impact of work on caregiving responsibilities is currently underway, the report of which is due to be published in February next year.
The Victorian branch of ANMF has tabled a request, urging a reduction in full-time weekly work from 38 hours to 32 hours, or four days instead of five.
In its submission, the union said the change would “give all employees a better opportunity to balance work and personal responsibility.”
The ANMF also noted that when the 38-hour week was first introduced in Australia in 1983, “it was set taking into account a very different domestic context”.
Paul Gilbert, deputy secretary of the ANMF Victorian Branch, told 7NEWS that the notion that 38 hours was a “magic number” was outdated.
“All the evidence shows that a (four-day work week) pays off,” he said.
“At the moment we have an incredible number of people on vacation, tired.”
Identical pilot projects are also currently underway in Canada and the USA, while the trial in Ireland has ended.
To date, between 2015 and 2019, Iceland had run the largest pilot of a shorter work week, involving 2,500 public sector workers in two large trials – which revealed no drop in productivity among participants and a dramatic increase in employee well-being.
Calls for a shorter working week have gained momentum in several countries in recent years.
As millions of employees have transitioned to remote work during the pandemic – saving tedious commute time and costs – calls for greater flexibility have only grown louder.
Government-backed trials are due to take place in Spain and Scotland later this year, the 4-day-week campaign said.
Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, said workers had shown they could work “shorter and smarter”.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are realizing that the new competitive frontier is quality of life and that working efficiently with reduced hours is the means to give them a competitive advantage,” he said.
Researchers will measure the impact the new work pattern will have on productivity levels, gender equality and the environment, and workers’ well-being.
– With CNN
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