There has been a lot of interest in moving away from the typical 5-day-workweek to help with a better work-life balance. Companies have been testing the theory that moving to a 4-day-workweek could help better the balance between hours spent at work, productivity at work, and hours spent at home after a decades-long mismatch. While there have been major trials done by a group of companies — like those piloted by 4 Day Workweek global — other trials have been done by national and local governments and even major companies on their own.
Now, one of the biggest companies trialing the new workweek — Unilever — is expanding its program following major results.
Unilever is a major global corporation that owns hundreds of well-known brands, including Dove, Axe, Lipton, Ben & Jerry’s, Vaseline, Knorr, and more. The company began a trial run of a 4-day-workweek in New Zealand in 2020. The 18 months-long trial, though small with only about 80 employees participating, aimed to collect data on worker productivity with one less working day to determine if it’s a program that could be launched worldwide.
According to Financial Times, the small study in New Zealand was successful for employees and employers. “We’ve had strong business performance, high engagement, people feeling happier, and time spent in meetings also coming down,” said Placid Jover, chief talent officer at Unilever.
“When we look at the world of work, we think that companies that master the art of offering flexibility will become more attractive employers with more engaged workforces.”
The data from the New Zealand trial on the 4-day workweek found that staff was more productive, more committed to the organization, and less stressed. More specifically, the data showed:
- Stress fell by 33%
- The feeling of vigor and strength increased by 15%
- Staff took 34% fewer sick days in 2021 than in 2020
- Work-life conflicts dropped by 67%
Anish Singh, the head of HR for Unilever Australia and New Zealand, said the success of the trial was due to prioritizing tasks and removing tasks that had little or no benefit.
“As a result, the company reduced the average time employees spent in meetings by 3.5 hours per week, slashed the number of emails sent, and adopted technology such as Microsoft Teams for video calls,” the Financial Review notes.
With the positive results from the New Zealand trial, Unilever has decided to expand the testing phase to 500 of its Australia-based workers. The new trial will run for at least 12 months, beginning on November 14th. The trial will be based on a 100:80:100 model, “whereby employees retain 100% of their pay but reduce their hours to 80%, provided they maintain 100% productivity,” Financial Times reports.
Unilever isn’t the only company that’s found a shorter workweek with the same pay and productivity has benefited the company and employees. A pilot program run by 4 Day Week Global, which covers 73 organizations in Britain, has preliminary data that shows similar benefits to what Unilever has reported. The organization is also trialing the shorter workweek in the U.S. and Canada, and countries like Iceland have trialed the 4-day-workweek for government employees to great success.