Should we rethink the five-day working week?

'Employees who are task-driven and self-motivated can easily work from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection'

Should we rethink the five-day working week?

Australian employers must rethink the need for their people to be sitting in an office five days a week. Instead, they should focus on what individual workers need to achieve without a set time allocated, according to APG Workforce CEO Glenn Redman.

He added that his organisation have employed many displaced workers, both skilled and unskilled, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while some workers need to be in a particular location at an agreed time to complete their job, many do not.

Redman said that employers have a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to rethink how they manage their workforces as we emerge from the global pandemic.

“There’s been a major upheaval in many businesses with huge numbers of employees working from home and it’s proven that work can still be achieved with more flexibility for their people,” said Redman.

“We’re advising our clients about how to continue with work flexibility post-COVID. Instead of focusing on the number of hours worked in a fixed location like an office or plant, we’re encouraging them to think about focusing on what they want their people to achieve by a certain deadline.

“In our experience employees who are task-driven and self-motivated can easily work from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection and the right tools and equipment. Our current situation has proved it.”

After trialling a four-day working week for its 250 staff, New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian announced in 2018 that they will be adopting the model permanently.

In an eight-week period, the trust company conducted a unique corporate experiment by allowing staff to only work four days a week - all other employment conditions, including remuneration, were unchanged.

According to a survey completed after the trial, work/life balance improved significantly from 54% in 2017 to 78% in the post-trial survey. Moreover, staff stress levels dropped from 45% pre-trial to 38% post-trial.

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Another area where APG Workforce is advising its clients post-COVID is internal communications.

“One of the biggest changes we’ve had to make during the pandemic is how we communicate with our people. We have a dispersed workforce and pre-COVID we would be able to meet face-to-face with them regularly.

That all stopped in mid-March, so they had to quickly move to online communication channels.

“We’ve found that short text and messenger services work best because we can have a two-way conversation. It’s allowed us to address issues before they become problems. We’ve also been using video calling and meetings to catch up regularly and we plan to continue to utilise these channels post-COVID,” said Redman.

Redman also believes that once the Federal Government stops its Job Keeper and makes any adjustments to the Job Seeker welfare payments there could be more facing unemployment over the coming months and even years.

“From an employee perspective, we’re ensuring that those seeking work understand that there’s much more competition when unemployment is higher. Candidates need to think about their preparation for job interviews and especially their presentation,” he said.

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“While we’ve seen some wonderful examples of business growth during the pandemic, like online fitness companies and food delivery services, there’s also been many, many businesses closing their doors in hospitality, retail, and tourism.”

Redman added that many of the people who have joined the queues at Centrelink may need to retrain and rethink how they might work in the future.

“Our organisation is a good example of a different way of thinking about employment,” he said.

“We hire many people at APG Workforce and then place them with organisations all around the country on both a short and long-term basis.

“We’re also advising candidates to take advantage of the many online courses that are either free or reduced in price as a result of the pandemic, which is great news for those who have available time on their hands and want to upskill.”

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