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Four-day weeks ‘just a matter of time’, most professionals think

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Survey reveals increasing optimism over shorter hours with almost two-thirds expecting them within a decade. 

By Philip King 10 minute read

Almost two in three professionals believe they will be working four-day weeks within a decade and 40 per cent think it will happen within five years, according to a survey by recruitment specialist Hays.

It found “growing optimism” among professionals about shorter hours fuelled by Australian trials at food giant Unilever, brand specialist Bright Agency and top 10 accounting firm Grant Thornton, among others.

Last month, a landmark deal between charity Oxfam Australia and the Australian Services Union secured the first four-day week on full-time pay enterprise agreement while a Senate Select Committee report has recommended trials based on the popular 100-80-100 model.

Hays managing director for Australia and New Zealand Nick Deligiannis said four-day work weeks had become a hot topic since the pandemic and professionals now prized flexibility.

“Proponents argue a four-day work week can boost productivity, improve employee morale and wellbeing, and reduce stress and burnout,” he said. “At a time of talent shortages, it can also aid candidate attraction, engagement and retention.”

The survey, of almost 42,000 professionals, found 61 per cent thought four-day weeks would become a reality within the next 10 years, with most of them believing it would take less than five.

More than one in six of the total – 16 per cent – were confident it could be implemented within 12 months and sceptics, who thought it would never happen, numbered just 23 per cent.

Mr Deligiannis said staff optimism about the change flew in the face of employer concerns.

“Many employers worry that a shorter work week could lead to decreased productivity, increased labour costs in organisations that require staff onsite five days a week and increased pressure on staff to meet current outcomes in fewer hours,” he said.

“Despite this, it seems that many workers are optimistic about the prospect of a four-day working week becoming a reality.

“As organisations continue to experiment with different working patterns, it will be interesting to see if this optimism is justified and whether the four-day work week will become more widely adopted in the years ahead.”

The so-called 100-80-100 principle was developed by 4 Day Week Global and holds that employees should receive 100 per cent pay for 80 per cent time and 100 per cent of productivity targets achieved.

It has become the main framework used by organisations when trialling or adopting four-day weeks with a few variations, such as staggering days off, different work patterns in different departments, seasonally-adjusted hours or, for some companies, a complete shutdown for one day a week.

The idea is taking off internationally, with a separate Hays survey in the UK revealing 5 per cent of organisations had introduced or were trialling a four-day work week while 9 per cent were considering it.

With almost 10,000 UK respondents, more than half said they would consider moving jobs for a four-day week, with 69 per cent saying it would improve their mental health and wellbeing.

A UK trial involving 60 organisations and almost 3,000 workers found revenue, employee health and wellbeing and job satisfaction all rose, while absenteeism, turnover, stress, burnout and fatigue declined. Almost every organisation in the trial plans to continue with a four-day week.

 

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Philip King

Philip King

AUTHOR

Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

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