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Is it time to adopt a 4-day working week?

Cameron Micallef
30 April 2021 1 minute readShare

With Spain becoming one of the first countries to trial a four-day work week, calls have increased for Australia to trial similar model, which would see full-timers week reduced to 32 hours at the same rate of pay.

Following successful individual trials, businesses in Spain will be given the opportunity to participate in a four-day work week trial.

Trials that have come out of Unilever and Perpetual Guardian have shown that reducing the hours employees work has led to a 20 per cent increase in staff productivity while increasing work/life balance for staff members.

Employment group Employsure points to Australians’ work ethics during periods of a public holiday, where workers “buckle down and cram the week’s work into four days” but remain in a more positive mood.

“If this applied to workers all year, they would essentially get 50 extra days in the year to better handle their work/life balance,” said Employsure business partner Emma Dawson.

“Parents would be able to spend more time with their children, work on projects around the house, travel to more places on the weekend. By the time the work week comes back around, they would be more rested and rejuvenated to take on the next four days of work.”

Ms Dawson opines the pandemic has shaken up our perception of a typical work week, with now being the time to question whether Australia should follow Spain and adapt a four-day work week.

“The aspect of a four-day work week most people consider is how it could benefit them. According to academics who observed the trial at Perpetual Guardian, staff had a higher level of job satisfaction, which resulted in lower stress levels, greater productivity, and an improved sense of work/life balance,” she said.

While the Spanish model is seeing the government pay participants on a sliding scale from 100 per cent in year one to 33 per cent in the third year, Ms Dawson said a trial in Australia would ultimately need to be funded by businesses themselves due to the cost of the pandemic.

“While a post-COVID world is an ideal time to shake up the typical work week formula, ultimately it comes down to the cost. If a four-day work week is something that could work in Australia, it can realistically only be achieved once businesses and the federal government have fully recovered from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic,” she said.

However, while the plan potentially has benefits for office workers, it also has drawbacks for the flow on economy and the small businesses that rely on staff being in offices. 

“As employers have seen in the past year with employees working from home instead of heading into their workplace, it has a knock-on effect for surrounding businesses, with less coffees and meals being consumed for the surrounding local businesses that are already suffering from the pandemic,” Ms Dawson concluded.

Is it time to adopt a 4-day working week?
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Cameron Micallef

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