A recent report into trials of the four-day work week in Australia commissioned by the Swinburne University of Technology (SUT) has returned overwhelmingly positive results.
The Four Day Work Week Trial
The ten Australian businesses selected by SUT had all adopted the ‘100:80:100’ model on a six-month trial basis.
Under this model employees of these businesses received 100% of their pay for working 80% of their previous hours, while committing to maintaining 100% productivity. Productivity was measured relating to the amount of work completed, the intensity of the work, the efficiency of completing work, and billing targets or other KPIs that were met.
Nature of the Businesses
The ten businesses participating in the trial were all private sector businesses – six were small businesses (1-19 employees) and the rest were medium sized businesses (20-199 employees). They were selected to represent the majority of Australian organisations using the 100:80:100 model. Four of the participants used a pre-determined scheme, while the other six designed their own pilot schemes. The nature of the businesses were:
- Management consulting firms;
- A shipping/logistics company;
- A recruitment agency;
- A marketing agency;
- A mental health coaching company;
- A software development company;
- A creative design agency;
- A health-care company; and
- A management training company.
Findings of the Report
At the end of the trial period, both employers and employees were interviewed by SUT researchers.
Employers interviewed gave the four-day work week an average satisfaction score of 9.25 out of 10, with 10 being the highest satisfaction score. 70% of employers said that their business productivity had increased since introducing the four-day work week model. The remaining 30% did not feel that their business productivity had decreased.
Further, employers noticed higher retention and attraction rates for employees, as well as a reduction in sick leave taken by employees. This may prove beneficial to companies who are unable to compete with larger businesses in terms of compensation, as small and medium-sized businesses can offer competitive employee benefits as a recruitment advantage.
SUT found that an extra day off each week provided strong motivation for employees in relation to efficiently completing tasks, maintaining quality performance, and reducing unnecessary behaviours.
Employees also reported they were less likely to experience burn-out, and had more time for life administration tasks, exercise, wellness, and self-care activities. This improved the stress levels and overall wellbeing of the personnel at the businesses.
One of the biggest challenges the businesses reported facing was increasing or maintaining their productivity when reducing work time. Some of the strategies that proved successful for the businesses interviewed included reduction of meetings and deprioritising non-essential work like formal meetings or corridor conversations between internal colleagues. Alongside results from other studies conducted globally, there was a notable shift in the mindset of employees, choosing to work “smarter not harder” to prioritise tasks more effectively and improving their decision-making skills.
Another challenge encountered by some of the businesses was that their customers required access to the business five days a week. This challenge was overcome by implementing a roster that saw staff working staggered shift patterns, meaning that support was available across all five days.
A final challenge identified was that the four-day work week is typically not formalised in existing and standard work contracts. Additionally, most Awards calculate minimum hours based on a five-day work week. Accordingly, implementing a four-day work week can pose difficulties when determining the benefits employees are entitled to.
Any proposed transition to a four-day work week must be a considered process following a comprehensive review of the business’ existing workplace arrangements and obligations.
If you or your business have any enquiries regarding the four-day work week model, please do not hesitate to reach out to Daniel email@example.com and the Workplace team at M+E today.
 World Economic Forum, 2023.