Consumer goods group Unilever is launching a year-long experiment to test how a four-day work week will impact their workforce.
Starting next week, the company will begin paying its 81 employees in New Zealand for five days, while allowing them to work four.
After the year is up, Unilever will identify the lessons from the experiment and see how it can apply to the rest of its 155,000 staffers.
“I’ve got colleagues all over the world who are saying ‘Please don’t stuff this thing up because we want to have a go at it some time in the future’,” said Nick Bangs, Unilever’s New Zealand managing director.
Bangs added that a four-day work week may not be plausible for manufacturing sites, but the company does not have manufacturing in New Zealand where the experiment is taking place.
This is one of many experiments companies have undergone to improve retention rates, as well as the productivity and wellbeing of their employees. For instance, Microsoft noted that their productivity grew when it started offering four-day work weeks for its staff in Japan last August.
Bangs said he was inspired by Andrew Barnes, founder of New Zealand estate planning firm Perpetual Guardian. The company made waves in 2018 when it announced it would give its staff of 240 a day off at full pay for eight weeks, which led to a huge uptick in productivity.
Unilever CEO Alan Jope has offered “overwhelming support” and said that he anticipates the workplace to be hybrid in the future.