Unilever to trial four-day week

Lipton ice tea – one of hundreds of Unilever's global consumer brands. Photo: Ho Su A Bi/Shutterstock

Unilever is to begin a year-long trial of a four-day week at its offices in New Zealand with the aim of  changing the way work is done, not increasing the hours worked over four days.

The consumer goods giant behind brands as diverse as Marmite, Domestos and TRESemmé will from Monday allow 81 staff to participate in the trial, paying employees for five days while they work only four.

Nick Bangs, New Zealand managing director, said: “If we end up in a situation where the team is working four extended days then we miss the point of this. We don’t want our team to have really long days, but to bring material change in the way they work.

“It’s very much an experiment. We have made no commitments beyond 12 months and beyond New Zealand. But we think there will be some good learning we can gather in this time.”

If we end up in a situation where the team is working four extended days then we miss the point of this. We don’t want our team to have really long days, but to bring material change in the way they work” – Nick Bangs, Unilever

Unilever said it would evaluate the outcome and look at how a shorter working week could work for the rest of its 155,000 employees globally.

In May, while the country’s borders were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern suggested that, while it was ultimately down to employers and employees, a four-day week could help stimulate domestic tourism.

“As I’ve said there’s just so much we’ve learnt about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that. I’d really encourage people to think about that if you’re an employer and in a position to do so. To think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”

Last year Microsoft trialled a four-day week in Japan for a month finding it led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and, it claimed, a 40% productivity boost.

According to a global survey of nearly 3,000 employees by The Workforce Institute at HR software provider Kronos, 78% of full-time workers said it would take less than seven hours each day to do their job if they could work uninterrupted, with 45% saying their job should take less than five hours per day.

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