Unilever New Zealand to try four-day working week

Unilever will experiment with a four-day working week in New Zealand for all employees.

According to the Guardian, consumer goods company Unilever plans to pilot out a four-day working week for all its New Zealand employees.

Staff will be paid for five days but work four in a 12-month experiment. Unilever said all 81 staff members at its offices across New Zealand would be able to participate in the trial, which will run until December next year.

Unilever New Zealand managing director, Nick Bangs, said the aim was to change the way work was done, not increase the working hours on four days.

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

After 12 months Unilever will assess the outcome and look at how it could work for its 155,000 employees globally.

“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,” he said. There is no manufacturing in New Zealand, and all the staff are in sales, distribution, and marketing.

A shorter working week has been under discussion in New Zealand and in 2019 estate planning firm Perpetual Guardian made headlines for pioneering the idea with its 250 staff. The company’s founder, Andrew Barnes, said it had been a success and they had seen big productivity increases. Barnes said they had found there is no downside from the decision.

The idea gained momentum when New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, encouraged firms to look at four-day weeks to offer flexibility to employees amid the Covid-19 pandemic. She also said it might help boost domestic tourism while international borders remained shut. The New Zealand government, however, has not yet adopted the idea itself.