Unilever Australia & New Zealand recently announced it was extending its 4 Day Work Week trial in New Zealand, and expanding it to its operations in Australia. But what actually is a four-day working week, what does it look like, and who does it involve? We explain - and bust some of the biggest misconceptions - below.
Myth #1: The 4 Day Work Week looks the same for everyone
While the 4 Day Work Week is founded on the same principles across the board, that doesn’t mean it looks the same for every company, or even every employee! What’s right for one office, team or employee’s life stage won’t always work for another. For some, the Gift of The Fifth (aka - the day they have off each week) may take the form of a couple of hours per day or two half days per week - whatever works best for them, their team, their external customers and their company.
Myth #2: A 4 Day Work Week means longer days
Mastering productivity is the key to a successful 4 Day Work Week, but don’t assume you have to work more hours in a day than normal. We can all think of tasks that occur in a day that could be reduced, or even removed. Once these prioritisation processes are improved, you can achieve the same outcomes in fewer hours with benefits for business results, staff productivity and wellbeing.
Myth #3: The 4 Day Work Week is just a three-day weekend
Introducing a 4 Day Work Week isn’t about giving everyone a three-day weekend. It’s about reclaiming time and being more productive with the time you spend at work. This day does not need to be either side of the weekend.
As every workplace and team has a different interpretation of the 4 Day Work Week, there’s no blanket rule here. Productivity is at the heart of the 4 Day Work Week, which means taking that fifth day at a time that doesn’t sacrifice business outputs either. For a lot of people, it’s a weekday to knock over chores, do meal prep, go to appointments you can’t schedule on the weekend, give back to the community, or learn something new.
Myth #4: Employees get paid less than their usual earnings and must sacrifice their leave if they switch to a 4 Day Work Week
At Unilever ANZ, the 4 Day Work Week trial has been founded on the 100:80:100 principle – that's 100% of the output delivery, 80% of the time and 100% of the pay (and leave). From pay, to wellbeing to business results, the 4 Day Work Week isn’t about sacrificing anything – it's about boosting it.
Myth #5: Customers/stakeholders will suffer if a company introduces a 4 Day Work Week
One of the biggest misconceptions about the 4 Day Work Week is that customers or other stakeholders will suffer, but this isn’t the case at all. Companies and employees have the flexibility to make the 4 Day Work Week work for both them and their customers, whether that’s through staggered schedules or the introduction of new tech support.
Results from the Unilever 4 Day Work Week trial in New Zealand found that feedback from stakeholders including customers was overwhelmingly positive.
Myth #6: A 4 Day Work Week isn’t suitable for all workplaces
You would be surprised by the number of sectors that are embracing the 4 Day Work Week. Freedom, flexibility and advances in technology can completely change how we work and how initiatives like the 4 Day Work Week can positively impact on a workplace’s bottom line and productivity. Think about how much has changed over the last 100 years. While some of Unilever’s team will not participate in the initial trial, they will be looking at how to translate office learnings to the factory environment. Who knows what the future may hold?
Myth #7: Employees will stress more
We’ve all experienced work stress, but the 4 Day Work Week should actually help with that. With productivity the focus of the 4 Day Work Week, the goal is to reduce unnecessary tasks and free up time.
Unilever’s trial in New Zealand saw job stress decline overall and job satisfaction remain high, proving 20% less hours doesn’t mean 20% more stress.
Myth #8: The 4 Day Work Week makes it harder to have good office culture
The pandemic taught us a lot of things; how to make sourdough bread, how to work effectively from our home offices, and how many jobs can be done remotely. We also learnt a lot about building good culture in the workplace and connecting with our co-workers without being in the same room.
Reducing stress - something that can be achieved through the 4 Day Work Week - and increasing freedom, means workplaces are likely to have a better culture than before!