Unilever New Zealand experimenting with 4-day workweek

Unilever New Zealand experimenting with 4-day workweek
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Multinational consumer goods company Unilever announced this week that it plans to begin allowing its employees in New Zealand to participate in a four-day workweek trial at full pay.

The company, which imports and distributes products such as Lipton tea, Dove soap, Vaseline and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, said in a press release that all 81 of its employees in offices across New Zealand will be eligible to participate.

“This is an exciting moment for our team and a validation of the catalytic role Covid-19 has played in shaking up standard working practices,” the company’s managing director, Nick Bangs, said in the release.

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“Unilever NZ’s strong growth trajectory as a business makes this the perfect time in our life cycle to drive something new and ambitious,” he added. 

Bangs added that the goal of the trial is “to measure performance on output, not time.” 

“We believe the old ways of working are outdated and no longer fit for purpose,” he explained. 

In an email to The New York Times, Bangs said he hopes employees will be able to get the same amount of work done in a shorter amount of time. 

“If we find that we’re all working the same number of hours as before but in four days, then we’ve missed the opportunity this trial presents us with,” he wrote. 

Bangs noted in the company’s press release that the trial is being modeled off one by New Zealand estate planning organization Perpetual Guardian. 

This company found at the completion of its 2018 eight-week trial that 78 percent of its 240 employees reported they were able to successfully manage their work-life balance, an increase of 24 percentage points from before the experiment.

Bangs added that Unilever New Zealand will help its employees move to a four-day work week by training them in Agile, a project management method that breaks work into short periods with constant reassessment and adaptation of plans while eliminating work that brings little value. 

“We’re not working to a playbook,” Bangs said. “We trust our employees to do the best for the company and will give them the support and resources to innovate and make their own decisions.”

Unilever’s trial is set to run for one year starting this month.

While the trial is limited to New Zealand, the company said in the press release that it plans on potentially trying the initiative on a larger scale in the future.