Here’s what a number of Australian companies have learned from introducing a 4-day work week

Most of us look forward to a rare long weekend. But some Australians now enjoy a four-day work week every week.

They are lucky enough to work for the small number of organizations that are trialling or permanently adopting the so-called 100:80:100 model, where employees keep 100% of what they received for five days while working 80% of their former hours – as long as they maintain 100% productivity.

This model has attracted a lot of attention worldwide. In recent years there have been positive reports about the success of trials in Iceland, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. However, some of this reporting has exaggerated the findings or failed to account for the complicating factors that may make the model unscalable.

To get a better sense of the reality, we surveyed ten Australian organizations that have embraced the model.

We interviewed senior managers in each organization about the perceived benefits and challenges. Our results therefore reflect a management perspective. But what they told us suggests that the four-day work week can successfully deliver positive outcomes for both employers and employees across a wide variety of industries.

Who we questioned

Four out of ten organizations in us research adopted the change after trials. The other six have extended their process, but have yet to formally finalize the move.

We believe these ten organizations represent the majority of Australian organizations using the 100:80:100 model. There could be more, but we made every effort to ensure that our survey was as complete as possible. Four of the companies were part of it world studies referred to above. The other six were not and designed their own pilot projects.

They are all private sector companies. Two are management consultancies, the other is a forwarding/logistics company; recruitment agency; marketing agency; mental health coaching company; software development company; creative design agency; care company and management training company.

Six of the companies are small businesses (less than 20 employees). The other four are medium-sized companies (20-199 employees).

In all cases, the initiatives were led by management as a strategy to address employee burnout, increase productivity, and retain and attract talent in a tight labor market.

For example, EES transmissiona medium-sized logistics company based in Perth decided to try a four-day work week in July 2022, at a time of extreme pressure on global and local supply chains.

“We started to see cracks in the industry,” says managing director Brian Hack. “People were burning out, truck drivers were just walking out the door and I really didn’t want to see that happen here.”

No lost productivity

Three out of 10 managers reported no loss of productivity despite a 20% reduction in hours – effectively making employees about 20% more productive.

The other seven reported that productivity was even higher than before.

Six said improvements in recruitment and retention were the biggest success of the initiative to date. Five underlined significant reductions in absenteeism due to illness.

Three companies had to keep their previous availability hours for customers and clients, despite their staff now working 20% ​​less time. This illustrates that it is possible for “customer-oriented” organizations to introduce four-day working weeks.

Reaction of the workers

Based on internal surveys and anecdotal evidence, managers reported that the extra day off each week made employees feel more relaxed and re-energized, and helped the “Sunday is scary— the fear and anxiety felt on Sunday night at the prospect of another five-day work week.

These are important findings, given the record levels of stress and burnout in Australian workplaces.

Skepticism remains

But there are also challenges for any organization that wants to introduce a four-day work week. Participating managers said the biggest barrier was overcoming skepticism, both internally and from external stakeholders such as clients and customers. The biggest point of resistance was that people simply didn’t believe that fewer hours didn’t necessarily mean lower productivity.

To overcome that skepticism, more evidence from studies, including from larger companies, is likely needed to see if the benefits reported by these small businesses scale across the workforce.

Such a trial is in the pipeline, although it will be of limited value.

Australia’s largest hardware store, Bunnings, last month signed an agreement with the Association of Retail Distributors and Related Employees for a four-day work week on trial. However, the company’s 40,000 employees won’t try the 100:80:100 model. They work the same number of hours over fewer days. It will therefore not be possible to draw substantial conclusions from the outcome.

And while the “customer-centric” companies we surveyed managed to continue their operations, it remains to be seen whether that is the case for all workplaces, such as retail stores, hospitals and nursing homes, where a reduction in the hours worked by current employees is likely. would be required to be covered by additional staff.

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