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Human Resources

The company moving to a four day week after trial shows high engagement and 34% drop in absenteeism

Health Industry Hub | November 16, 2022 |

Human Resources: One of the largest companies, offering personal care and home care products in Australia & New Zealand, is expanding the 4 day work week trial to its Australian business, following a successful 18-month trial in its New Zealand operations.

Beginning on 14 November 2022, Unilever’s Australian trial of a four day week will initially run for 12 months. As part of the initiative, staff retain 100% of salaries, while working 80% of the time, while still committing to 100% delivery for the business (100:100:80). Mirroring the New Zealand trial, employees will have the flexibility to choose which day or set of hours is most suitable for them take off, ensuring it also works for the teams they are part of and ensure continuity for the business.

The expansion comes off the back of encouraging results from Unilever’s 18-month pilot in New Zealand, which all team members participated in.

Results from the New Zealand trial showed strong results against business targets, including revenue growth, with the vast majority of staff reporting feeling engaged and absenteeism dropping 34%. Individual wellbeing also improved with stress dropping 33%. Meanwhile, feelings of strength and vigour at work increased by 15% and work/life conflict fell 67%.

Stakeholders and partners also took to the trial favourably, with 100% agreeing that the NZ team completed work on time and to high quality. As a result of these positive results, the trial will continue in New Zealand to garner more insights.

Unilever Australia and New Zealand CEO, Nicky Sparshott said that bringing the trial to Australia is an opportunity to explore different ways to unlock more value for the team and the business across both markets.

“Driving a performance culture and maintaining competitive edge sits at the heart of the 4 Day Work Week. The experiment builds off Unilever’s ambition to enhance the wellbeing of both its people and business. This is about trying new ways to remove the barriers that potentially limit value creation and slow us down and focusing our energies on creating impact and delivering results.

“Expanding the 4 Day Work Week trial across both markets is part of Unilever’s commitment to ensuring we deliver as a business, whilst also meeting the evolving needs and expectations of our team members”

To enable the move to the 100:80:100 logic in Australia, Unilever will take the learnings from its New Zealand office, leveraging existing technology and new tools to support more efficient work practices. These include less frequent but more efficient meetings, less emails and the adoption of technology such as MS Teams.

“By removing projects processes and protocols that add less value, throughout our week, we are able to free up time to work on items that matter most to the people we serve, externally and internally,” said Nicky.

Professor Bronwen Dalton, Head of the Department of Management at UTS Business School, which monitored and measured the trial, said it is the most comprehensive study into flexible working arrangements to date.

“The Unilever New Zealand 4 Day Work Week trial week produced successful, independent measurements. Through rigorous, in-depth academic research, we have produced a robust, multi-level data set that can be used to further refine the initiative over time. In conducting this trial in collaboration with UTS Business School, Unilever ANZ has been a pioneer in helping to create an evidence-base that can inform ongoing research into the future of work,” she said.

Ms Sparshott said Unilever ANZ is committed to supporting the wider Australian business community to embrace new working styles.

“We are excited to share our learnings, particularly as Australia navigates the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, and hybrid working styles become the norm. We’re proud to be leaders in equipping our own people and others for the future.”

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