“In this labour market, it’s a question of ‘why wouldn’t we?’ because it’s a win-win.”
The potential benefits of the change for employees, employers and the economy were canvassed on Tuesday, when the Committee for Economic Development of Australia discussed the global pilot being run by New Zealand-based non-profit organisation 4 Day Week Global.
The four-day work week is being trialled by dozens of companies on the eastern seaboard as part of the pilot, which has helped businesses in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand navigate and permanently implement the new schedule.
A report released after its trials in the United Kingdom and New Zealand showed 90 per cent of employees wanted to continue the four-day work week and 15 per cent said no amount of money would make them accept a return to the status quo.
Companies reported drops in employee absenteeism and improvements in staff retention, as well as subtle revenue growth, and just a handful opted not to continue.
Participants also reported noticeable improvements to their health and well-being, including a reduction in work stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
Charlotte Lockhart, founder of 4 Day Week Global, told the CEDA conference there was a general acceptance from governments and from businesses around the world that reducing work time was part of the future, but it was about the logistics of getting there and doing so sustainably.
University of Queensland School of Economics Laureate Fellow Professor John Quigginx, who has overseen its implementation in the Australian market, conceded the move seemed like a radical shift.
But the real historical anomaly, he said, was that working hours had remained unchanged for the past four decades.
So far, just one WA-based company has taken part in the pilot.
The state has not adopted flexible working arrangements in the same way other states have, with just one in 15 jobs on SEEK offering such arrangements compared to one in every eight in the eastern states.
But Bentley insists the state doesn’t always have to last and believes more local organisations can and should be experimenting with the four-day week where they can, especially if they wish to compete for talent globally.
It’s something the state government has spent millions of dollars doing since the pandemic, launching targeted recruitment campaigns like ‘Build a life in WA’ and ‘Western Australia – It’s Like No Other’ in the hope of filling some 31,000 job vacancies advertised across WA.
“We know that if people perceive a high level of psychosocial safety climate, that’s the people at the top of their organisation caring about their wellbeing, they are much mentally healthier themselves and their performance is better,” he said.
“Any employee looking at work opportunities, particularly those interstate or overseas, is not just looking at the salaries. You’ve got to offer other things nowadays and if you don’t, you best believe your rival will be.
“If we get this right, it could really add to WA as a place to live and work.
“Let’s put an end to the long working hours culture and the intensity so that people can engage at work in more healthy ways and everyone wins.”