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With an increase in numbers reporting that stress and burnout had increased since the pandemic, it may come as no surprise that organisations are looking for different approaches to how to make their workplaces better. One such approach that is gaining worldwide attention, and more recently in Australia, is the 4-day work week – a work schedule that is divided over 4 days, giving workers a 3 day weekend with no reduction in pay. Advocates have suggested that having employees work across a 4-day schedule instead of 5, increases productivity and supporting evidence is has been positive thus far.  

Recently, a number of organisations across Australia and New Zealand have adopted a pilot program to trial the concept of a 4-day work week to consider the reassessment of priorities in working lives. It is suggested that when employees have the incentive of a day off to spend their time as they choose, they are much more mindful of wasting time at work. Organisations are being encouraged to make it work by hiring more staff, setting clear goals and cancelling out unnecessary meetings – a shift that is expected to result in increased productivity, wellbeing and happier staff generally.

Locally, aside from the 4-day week trials we are starting to see flexibility more broadly across organisations and the openness to adapt to differing requirements of employees. The concept of a 9-day fortnight (with full time pay) is becoming more prevalent, with organisations looking to ease into the change in an alternative way. 

The construction industry, particularly on larger projects, is typically renowned for a 6-day work week. Some forward-thinking organisations are now trying to imbed flexibility for their people, either through rostering and / or mandating a 5-day program to prioritise the health and wellbeing of their staff. As this concept is becoming more prevalent and available within the industry, we are seeing it becoming a key benefit in attracting and securing great talent. 

There is no one way to address concerns of stress and burnout within the workforce when it comes to how we work, however, taking a long-term, holistic approach that places a key focus on the workforce is the best path to both happiness and wellbeing. With remote working being more common since the pandemic, it will be interesting to see whether this will also have an impact on how many organisations need to adopt the concept. The answer may, in fact, not be a 4-day work week for everyone, but engaging in understanding how workplaces can be better is certainly a good starting point.