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Good news, the four-day work week is coming

The world’s biggest four-day-work-week trial was an overwhelming success. So how does it actually work?

Four day work week
Dozens of UK companies trialled a four-day work week and it was an overwhelming success. So how would it work in Australia? (Source: Supplied/Getty)

Working fewer hours for the same pay sounds like every employee’s dream. But the four-day work week could finally be becoming a reality.

The world’s largest four-day-work-week trial came to an end last week. And more than 90 per cent of the 61 UK companies involved decided to stick with the change.

Companies reported a 1.4 per cent increase in revenue, as well as a 57 per cent fall in resignations. Staff said their health and well-being improved, as well as their overall satisfaction.

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So how does a four-day work week actually work? One company currently trialling it is Unilever - the consumer goods giant behind products like Dove, OMO and Magnum ice-cream.

It’s been conducting the trial with Aussie staff since November, following a successful New Zealand pilot, which saw a boost in revenue, as well as increased staff well-being and engagement.

The trial is following the 100:80:100 model, where staff are paid 100 per cent of their salaries, while working 80 per cent of the time and delivering 100 per cent productivity.

To achieve this practically, Unilever ANZ head of HR Shruti Ganeriwala said staff had been cutting down on meetings, sending fewer emails and rethinking how they use collaboration software like Microsoft Teams.

Unilever four day work week
Unilever ANZ head of HR Shruti Ganeriwala said a four-day work week doesn't mean longer days. (Source: Supplied)

“It’s not a compressed working week. It’s not doing things the same way and doing longer hours in the four days,” Ganeriwala told Yahoo Finance.

“We fundamentally believe that concept doesn’t work and goes against well-being.”

Employees had the flexibility to choose which day or hours suited them, but many workers opted to take Fridays off. Staff were also encouraged to work from the office twice a week, Ganeriwala said.

One worker involved in the trial is Anna Tracey, who is a senior marketing manager for deodorants at Unilever ANZ. Tracey told Yahoo Finance she was feeling more productive at work and was using her day off to study and volunteer.

“Having less time in the week really encourages us to be more ruthless in prioritising the work that really matters,” she said.

“Since the trial has launched, everybody has gone into that mindset of questioning the status quo and not just doing meetings for the sake of meetings.”

Ganeriwala said it was important for businesses to stay adaptable and be open to changing things if they weren’t working.

“We have gone into it with the belief that it is a trial, so let’s experiment and see what works. We don’t know the perfect answer,” she said.

Unilever New Zealand is continuing its four-day-work-week trial with no definite end date, while the Australian trial will continue running until November.

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