WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Global consumer goods giant Unilever said on Tuesday it was poised to try out a four-day working week for all its New Zealand employees.
Unilever said all 81 staff members at its offices across New Zealand will be able to participate in the trial, which starts next week and will run for 12 months until December next year.
The employees will be paid for five days while working just four.
Unilever New Zealand managing director Nick Bangs said the aim was to change the way work is 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 of the move and look at how it could work for the rest of 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 debated for a while in New Zealand with estate planning firm Perpetual Guardian making headlines last year for pioneering the idea and declaring it had seen big productivity increases.
The idea gained momentum this year when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern encouraged firms to look at four-day weeks to offer flexibility to employees amid the coronavirus pandemic. She also said it may help boost domestic tourism while international borders remained shut.
“When the prime minister talked about it in the context of what the future of work would look like, that was encouragement for us,” said Bangs.
However, the New Zealand government has not taken the idea on board in its offices yet.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Tom Brown)