The Four-Day Work Week: Unilever’s Test

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Imagine getting the same paycheck for working fewer hours in the week. This is exactly what Unilever plans to do. They are ready to start testing the proposition in New Zealand. The FMCG giant plans on running this test on all of its 81 New Zealand employees for the next 12 months. They plan on assessing the results of this test and start thinking about how it can be implemented for its 155000 employees worldwide.

The four-day workweek does not mean that the working hours of these days are increased. Commenting on the same question, Unilever New Zealand managing director Nick Bangs said the trial aimed to change the way work is done, not increase the working hours on four days. Adding to this Mr. Bangs also said, that if they end up in a situation where the team is working four extended days then they miss the point of this. Unilever does not want their team to have long days, but to bring material change in the way they work. He also mentioned that they have not made any commitments beyond 12 months and New Zealand and that he thinks that it is a good time for learning.

Bangs believes that COVID-19 had a catalytic role behind the experiment. He says that the traditional ways of working are over and that the experiment is about understanding how work and life fit together and improve overall physical and mental wellbeing.  Unilever has recruited the help of the University of Technology Business School, Sydney, to measure how the performance fares.

Unilever is not the first brand to experiment with the four-day workweek. Microsoft ran the same test with its employees in Japan and saw a 40% boost in productivity. The company also said that they kept a cap on meetings to 30 minutes and most of these were done through remote communication. They also used 59% less printed paper and 23% less electricity during this time. Shake shack which rolled out the four-day workweek policy across the US for its employees said that because the employees did not need to pay for the fifth day of child care it attracted new talent to the firm.

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