Unilever’s NZ employees received 100% of their pay, reported a 33% reduction in stress and absenteeism dropped 34%
British multinational Unilever will expand its trial of a four-day work week to staff in Australia after a successful 18-month pilot in New Zealand.
The company behind Dove soap, Domestos cleaning products and Magnum ice-cream announced on Wednesday it would continue the trial in New Zealand and expand it to Australia for an initial 12 months.
Under the New Zealand trial, which ran from December 2020 to June 2022, 80 employees worked four days a week at 100% of their pay, while committing to 100% effort for the business.
The company reported that there were strong results meeting business targets, while absenteeism dropped 34% and the staff in the trial reported a 33% drop in stress and a decrease in work-life conflict of 67%.
Sheralyn Eckford, a channel and category development manager based in Auckland, said she used her extra day to run errands and do pilates before the weekend.
“By getting the family admin done on a Friday it frees up the weekend to spend quality time as a family – fitting in something fun is important to me,” she said in a statement issued by Unilever
“I love spending time with friends – a nice long lunch, mid-arvo social drinks or getting away for a longer weekend. When working five days I often didn’t have time to fit this into my weeks.”
The company reported being able to cut down on projects and processes during the week to free up more time for staff. Employees recommended fewer but more efficient meetings, less email, and the adoption of more efficient online communication.
Unilever’s New Zealand managing director, Cameron Heath, said Australian staff would benefit from what NZ staff were able to learn during the trial.
Unilever worked with the head of the department of management at University of Technology Sydney Business School, Prof Bronwen Dalton, to monitor the trial.
Trials of four-day working weeks have taken off during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the United Kingdom in June, 3,300 workers at 70 companies began trialling the shorter work week. Other trials in Spain and Scotland began this year.
In Australia, the Victorian Greens on Monday proposed a four-day working week to be trialled in the state under a two-year $60m proposal that would fund Victorian government departments and Victorian-owned businesses with a turnover of less than $50m.
“We’ve been tricked into believing that working five days a week is normal, but if we can achieve the same results in four, as the trials are indicating, why wouldn’t we take some of our time back to spend with loved ones on passion projects?” the state Greens leader, Samantha Ratnam, said.