Unilever Takes Employee Wellness To Another Level

In a rough year for the world, New Zealand has come out a winner. With just 25 coronavirus deaths, the island nation has avoided the worst of the economic and healthcare fallout of the pandemic.

Now, certain residents will have more time to enjoy the spoils.

Yesterday, Unilever announced a four-day workweek for the company’s Kiwi employees.

Sounds Pretty Good

Admittedly, the announcement will apply to a select few.

In a 12 month experiment, Unilever will pay its 81 New Zealand-based employees for a five-day workweek, but allow them to work just four. After the trial period, Unilever says it will take the “lessons learned” and see how they can be applied to the company’s 155,000 other employees.

Details: Employees will be expected to produce the same output, but the idea isn’t simply to work harder in a four-day stretch. Instead, the company expects to accomplish the same amount or more in less time by “changing the way we work.” No further details were provided on what that means, exactly.

And Unilever isn’t alone. A number of large companies have done trials of a condensed workweek:

  • Microsoft ran a test of a four-day week in Japan (one of the toughest work cultures in the world) and saw a boost in productivity.
  • Burger chain Shake Shack started trialing the measure last year to see if it could help to recruit and retain staff.

On top of feel-good vibes for employees, some say there are real economic benefits.

Earlier this year New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern suggested lighter work weeks would bolster domestic tourism. A study by Henley Business School in the U.K. said shorter workweeks would reduce sick leave and recruitment costs, saving U.K. businesses over £100 billion per year.

Our Take: Worth a shot.