This is a topic that has received much debate recently in the media and in HR circles. On face value, a four-day work week seems like the answer to Australia’s work-life balance struggle, but in practice it is more a passing fad than a sustainable solution. We need to ask the question why do we want four day work weeks? This essentially is driven by several competing forces, namely the changing way we want to work given societal and generational changes, the move to part-time and casual jobs and businesses operating more and more on projects and strategic outcomes.
Practically speaking, four day work weeks would have a substantial economic impact for Australian employees to earn lower incomes and there is a concern that such an initiative would lead to misguided perceptions around job insecurity.
A four-day work week may allow workers another day for family and “living”, but it does nothing to address the bigger issues occurring when workers are at work.
While the debate around the four-day work week signals Australia is at least beginning to acknowledge the important role workplace wellbeing plays, it does not achieve genuine change. In order to achieve this, we need to take a holistic approach to our workplaces to improve outcomes for workers, management and the organisation.
Employers need to recognise that this way of working requires a more flexible way of operating with employees coming and going. They will need to take a closer look at the culture and relationships within workplaces, which are closely linked to inclusion, development, engagement and life enhancement – four principles that are essential to maintain a healthy workplace.