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Four-day week proves popular with workers around the world

A four-day work week could revolutionise Australia.

A four-day work week could revolutionise Australia. Photo: Getty

A four-day work week could be a “game changer” for how Australians work, experts say, following recent trials that have brought about promising results.

The idea of a four-day work week sounds like a dream to many, and sometimes the concept is met with scepticism.

However, business professor Zhou Jiang from RMIT believes the change could revolutionise society and bring about positive impacts for the environment.

Professor Jiang said there have been several successful trials of the four-day work week in Australia.

Results from those trials “have signalled a need to transform the way we work to achieve sustainable benefits for the employee, the organisation and society”, he said.

“It is not surprising that the reduction of working hours/days without a pay cut improves employees’ wellbeing, which can further boost their performance, productivity, innovation and creativity,” Professor Jiang said.

“Mental health and wellbeing issues are prevalent among workers and a main trigger of these issues is long working hours.”

He said the introduction of a four-day work week delivers a strong message to employees about the importance of a work-life balance and a willingness to try new and innovative solutions.

It also signals a commitment to building a “sustainable, resilient workforce”.

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Will it be the norm?

Earlier this year, a Senate committee recommended a trial of a shorter work week and there has already been a pilot for the four-day work week in Australia, which was headed up by non-profit, 4 Day Week Global.

A majority of the workers in the companies that participated preferred working fewer days, while still getting 100 per of the pay.

Following the six-month trial which began in August last year, 95 per cent of companies said they preferred the reduced schedule.

On a scale of 1 to10, companies rated the overall trial an 8.2, reporting great satisfaction with business productivity, performance, and ability to attract employees,” 4 Day Week Global said.

“They also observed a 44 per cent average reduction in absenteeism and 9 per cent reduction in resignations over the course of the pilot.”

Michelle Rigg, the general manager of Rentwest Solutions, decided to take part in the pilot program after trying and failing to introduce a four-day work week.

Our key indicator was our customer experience,” Ms Rigg said.

“Throughout the trial, we had several checkpoints to assess this and although we tried, we found no change to the customer experience – in most cases it had improved.

“We also conducted several check-ins with the team and at the end of the trial, it was an overwhelming ‘yes’ to continuing.”

Individuals’ cultural norms could influence change

There have been other pilot programs around the world that have also seen positive results.

So far evidence of the positive impacts of a four-day work week are mainly from developing countries, Professor Jiang said.

However, he acknowledged that big developing nations like South Africa and Brazil are set to embark on pilot programs.

“I look forward to seeing the results of future pilot programs in more developing countries such as India and China where many employees are stressed to work on a 9-9-6 model (9am to 9pm for six days per week),” he said.

“I predict that societal cultures, as well as individuals’ cultural norms and value orientations, will significantly influence the feasibility and effectiveness of implementing the four-day work week.”

Professor Jiang said if a four-day work week was to become the norm, then there would be less people commuting.

With less people commuting, there would be a reduction in traffic jams and carbon pollution.

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