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Medibank offers staff ‘gift’ of 4-day work week

Medibank says it is investing in employees' "health and well-being to help prevent issues like burnout".

Medibank is the latest Australian company to trial a four-day work week, with participating staff being asked to cut waste-of-time meetings and tasks to boost productivity in a limited time.

The health insurer has almost 4,000 staff but will only roll out the six-month 100:80:100 trial to 250 employees. They will retain the same pay but will need to match the productivity of the usual five-day week.

Medibank employees have been told to think of this time as a “gift” and not an “entitlement” that will allow them to focus more time on health, well-being, rest, friends, families, and life-enriching hobbies.

Are you now working four days? Tell your story to belinda.grantgeary@yahooinc.com

Composite image of a Medibank shopfront and workers in an office before the four-day trial.
The four-day-week trial aims to decrease "non-value-add work" such as unnecessary meetings. (Source: Getty/AAP) (Getty/AAP)

The ASX-listed company has already reportedly started assessing workloads to eliminate time-consuming tasks that have little value. Medibank will work with Macquarie University to determine the program’s success.

“The goal is not to work a compressed work week but to find opportunities in our work to rethink wasted or non-value-add work [and] remove bureaucracy that’s not effective to make space for the gift of time,” Medibank people and culture group executive Kylie Bishop told Yahoo Finance.

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“There are lots of pressures out there right now, whether it’s cost of living or people managing their work and home commitments. We’re constantly thinking about how we can help balance that for our people and invest in their health and well-being to help prevent issues like burnout.”

Bishop said the change would not impact Medibank customers and was predicted to drive down issues that could, such as absenteeism.

Concerns over trial length

Some concerns have been raised about whether the short length of the trial will be enough to properly adopt, and if the small number of participants will foster inequality within the ranks.

“It has to be available to all. I am a bit concerned,” University of Technology Sydney professor Bronwen Dalton told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“Imagine if just 25 colleagues get the same pay as you, but they get Fridays off. Wouldn’t you feel that’s a bit unequal?”

Dalton worked on another Australian pilot program with 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 last year, following a successful New Zealand pilot, which saw a boost in revenue, as well as increased staff well-being and engagement.

A senior marketing manager for deodorants said she felt more productive since the start of the trial, and was able to use her day off to study or volunteer.

“Having less time in the week really encourages us to be more ruthless in prioritising the work that really matters,” Anna Tracey told Yahoo Finance.

“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.”

Hardware giant Bunnings has also started a four-day working week trial for thousands of its employees, giving them the option to work 38 hours over four days or spread their hours out across a nine-day fortnight.

The staff are entitled to five weeks’ annual leave, and were told they’d get a 10.5 per cent pay rise over the next three years.

More than 90 per cent of the 61 UK companies involved in the world’s biggest four-day-work-week trial 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 did their overall satisfaction.

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