Should Australians adopt three-day weekends?

A NZ company has announced the trial of a four-day working week – will this catch on in Australia?

Should Australians adopt three-day weekends?

A trust company in New Zealand has announced plans to trial a three-day weekend for its entire workforce.

Perpetual Guardian, which has over 200 team members, will run a trial for six weeks in the hopes of boosting productivity and increasing employee engagement.

“We think it's the right thing to do," company founder Andrew Barnes told The AM Show.

"In today's world it's very difficult for people to juggle both work at home and work in the office. We want people to be the best they can when they're in the office but also the best at home."

While some organisations have trialled longer hours across fewer days, Barnes says employees will still work a typical workday and receive their normal salaries.

"We've put it to the team and what they've now got to do is work out how they deliver the same amount of work in a week over four days," said Barnes.

“That means work smarter, work cleverer, change the systems, change the processes."

Christine Brotherton, head of people and capability at the company, pointed to research showing a correlation between employee engagement and productivity.

"If employees are engaged with their job and employer, they are more productive," she said. “We believe efficiency will come with more staff focus and motivation."

Unsurprisingly, the announcement was welcomed enthusiastically by employees with Barnes admitting he’d been moved to tears by some of the responses.

"We have a couple of single mothers in the company and they're saying this will change their world," he said, noting that the new schedule will start in March.

The company will also stagger the employee roster so the office isn't empty on a Friday or a Monday and key customer-facing services won't be unmanned during business hours.

A study in 2017 by the by the Australian National University found that work is intruding on the lives of employees so much that they’re struggling to eat, sleep and talk to family.

The report found the vast majority of employees don’t have enough time to carry out the four major protective health activities, including eating well, restorative sleep, physical activity and social connection.

"When time was scarce, time spent on healthy behaviours was frequently shortened or abandoned,” the study stated.

Moreover, the Greens leader Richard Di Natale told the National Press Club last year that Australia should consider a four-day working week or a six-hour day.

He cited Sweden's six-hour working week in the aged care sector as an example of a measure to increase productivity.

"If you are an individual employee, it should be alright to request flexible work hours and it should be up to the employer to prove why you can't have them," he said.

"We have to start making progress in this area, because we have so many people in this country who are working more hours than they should.

"At the same time, we have so many people who are underemployed or indeed unemployed."

Related stories:
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