The Unilever headquarters building in Toronto, Canada against a cloudy sky.
Unilever office in Toronto, Canada. Image: © JHVEPhoto/

Unilever New Zealand to trial a four-day week

1 Dec 2020

Consumer goods company Unilever will run a year-long four-day week trial for its New Zealand employees with no changes to salaries.

The latest company to test out a four-day work week is Unilever in New Zealand. According to Reuters, the consumer goods giant employs 81 people in the country across sales, distribution and marketing, and all of them will have the option to take part in a year-long trial of this new working arrangement.

The trial will begin this month and last until December 2021, with staff still receiving the same salaries even though they will be working for one day less per week. Once the trial is complete, Unilever will reflect on its outcomes and decide on next steps for the company’s 155,000 employees around the world.

Unilever New Zealand’s managing director, Nick Bangs, confirmed that employees won’t work longer hours over four days to make up the time.

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

“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.”

Earlier this year, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern flagged four-day working weeks as a potential measure for companies to consider during the country’s economic recovery after Covid-19, as a way to boost work-life balance and domestic tourism.

The four-day week

Big and small businesses have been putting four-day weeks to the test. Last year, Microsoft trialled a shorter working week in Japan for one month. The company reported that it resulted in greater productivity and efficiency, happier staff, fewer annual leave days being taken and less environmental impact.

Here in Ireland, Donegal-based digital publishing company 3D Issue recently shifted to a four-day week. Its CEO, Paul McNulty, told that he gave his team the choice between higher salaries and shorter weeks. Every single person in the company, he said, opted for the shorter week.

Meanwhile, organisations such as Four Day Week Ireland are driving the national conversation on the topic. Four Day Week Ireland steering group member and Fórsa director of campaigning, Joe O’Connor, said at the campaign’s launch last year: “We believe that we should be talking about productivity rather than time.

“We’re pushing for this because we believe there’s a need for a gradual, steady and managed transition to a shorter working week for all workers in the public and private sector.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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