Artefacts from the future: A Fair Work Update 2024

Australian's invented the 8 hour day and co-invented the weekend. But not much has changed since then...(until now....)

In recent news, the Fair Work Ombudsperson has formally approved changes to the total weekly hours of work. In their Monday press conference, the Ombudsperson cited a number of key drivers that have influenced the shift, such as, the increasing need to reduce carbon footprints, the increased attention on workplace health and wellbeing and business demands for greater productivity.

For many organisations, this announcement is merely an official rubber stamp. A large number of organisations have long established permanent four-day work weeks. With some early adopters dating back to 2019/20, a shift in work practices that increased in the years following COVID-19.

So what? Now what? (the organisational view)

  • What assumptions have you (already) made about the four day work week (4DWW)? (E.g. costs to orgs, assumed productivity gains, green dividends?)
  • How can you test and challenge these assumptions?  
  • What would a 4DWW mean for your work, team, organisation?
  • How might this change impact your workforce availability? Ability to deliver services?
  • If your org requires a 24/7 presence, what practical implications would this change create?
  • How would 4DWW impact work design, and how work gets done?
  • How might a 4DWW initiate a rethink in how we design and allocate work?
  • What if workers put the same hours in anyway? What are the overtime and burnout implications?
  • What if the reduction in working hours increased worker stress?
  • What are the obvious/non-obvious (potential) cost benefits for your organisation?
  • What if workers use their additional day off to top up salaries with extra work? (especially given, slow wage growth, cost of living demands etc)
  • What if workers don't make positive behavioural changes? (They work longer days etc).
  • What if workers failed to meet their work requirements?
  • Could alternative structures arise? (E.g. 30 hour weeks spread over a 5 day structure?)
  • What signals of change might point to a more wide-scale adoption of a 4DWW? (e.g. legislative shifts in other countries, an increased in voluntary adoption of 4DWW within or adjacent to your industry).
  • How could you leverage these potential shifts? Is this an opportunity to attract the best talent or a risk to mitigate?
  • Is there an opportunity to rethink the rigidity of 'days per week' in the first place? Are there examples of orgs that are doing this already?

So what? Now what? (the worker view)

  • What would a 4 day work-week mean for you? Your family?
  • How would this reclaimed time open up opportunities for other pursuits?
  • How likely would you be to put in extended hours during the 4 days?
  • Are there potential unintended consequences, like an increase in hours of unpaid work at home?
  • Would you be more inclined to work for organisations who offers a 4DWW? (They exist!!!)
  • How much value to you place on the additional 'free time'? What's it worth to you? (NB: no one wishes they had spent more time at work when approaching the end of their time on this earth)....

We’re used to the notion of an eight-hour workday and a 38-hour work week, but things weren't always this way. And given the pockets of the future in the present (below), there's an increasingly possibility that the 4DWW could become the 'new norm' sooner than we think. If not from you, from your competitors.

While we wait to see how it all pans out, now is the time to place those 'small bet in a long game' - can you start to experiment with traditional working structures/time? What can we learn about orgs that have already implemented this practice? Or those that have reconsidered fixed hours all together? How can we interrogate the data more? What are the unintended consequences (e.g. needing to change the design of work, the distribution of work etc - it's not simply about the reduction of hours)?

*For all the IR/ER specialists out there, please don't @ me, the Fair Work Press release is fake (lols...)....

Pockets of the future in the present

Spain to pilot four-day working week
Government agrees to proposal from leftwing party Más País allowing companies to test reduced hours
Microsoft experimented with a four-day work week. Productivity soared 40 per cent
Full-time employees at Microsoft Japan took off five consecutive Fridays with pay, and sales per employee rose 40 per cent.
FOCUS: Japan gov’t backs 4-day workweek, but experts split
Japan’s government plans to encourage firms to let their employees choose to work four days a week instead of five, aiming to improve the balance between work and life for people who have family care responsibilities or need more time off to acquire new skills.
Parliament: 4-day work week among ideas to improve work-life balance here
A four-day work week and government-funded childcare leave to help parents cope with the Covid-19 situation were among the suggestions made by MPs in Parliament.. Read more at straitstimes.com.
Jacinda Ardern flags four-day working week as way to rebuild New Zealand after Covid-19
Prime minister says flexible working options can boost productivity and domestic tourism and improve work/life balance
Russia’s Labor Ministry Says 4-Day Work Week Would Improve Employees’ Lives Despite Costs - The Moscow Times
The idea was first proposed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to help workers avoid burnout syndrome and chronic fatigue.
Four-day working week would slash UK carbon footprint, report says
Study finds change would shrink emissions by 127m tonnes, helping country meet climate targets