As the legendary Sam Cook once sang, a change is gonna come.
The working revolution inspired by the pandemic and the changes we’ve all been forced to undergo in response to the upheaval of, well, nearly everything, may well have some long-lasting and even permanent benefits.
Flexible work could be here to stay as employees refuse to return to the working conditions of the past. What’s more, the four-day work week is gaining traction right across the globe as a way of working that is not only more effective but would make all of us healthier, happier, and more fulfilled in life.
While the benefits of the approach are well documented and have been experimented with from New Zealand to Iceland, few in government in Australia are ready to take up the mantel just yet.
That’s why it appears to be falling more and more to private organisations to experiment with the practice and a new study has found that increasingly they are.
Mercer’s 2021 Australian Benefits Review surveyed 378 Australian organisations and found that almost 27% of Aussie employers are offering their staff a four-day week.
It’s a practice that has climbed in popularity by almost 30% in the past four years as it appears that more companies are open to the idea of flexible working – and reaping the benefits from their employees.
Those who took part in the shortened week reported feeling “less stressed” and had less of a “risk of burnout”. What’s more, the change has not had a negative impact on productivity, in fact, the opposite is true.
95% of Australian businesses offer some kind of employee assistance programme, up from 89 per cent in 2019. This includes things like health and wellness programmes, free food, or flu vaccines. However, Mercer has shown that many companies are also expanding their employee benefits, a change that appears to have been supercharged by the pandemic.
Flexible working strategies have been implemented by 76% per cent of organisations and many are looking to expand their wellbeing and assistance programmes in response to the pandemic and the future of work in a post-COVID world to attract new recruits.
“The clear themes emerging from this year’s study are increased support for employee wellbeing – across mental, physical and financial – and flexibility is inextricably linked to this,” Chi Tran, Head of Market Insights and Data at Mercer’s workforce consulting practice, said.
“The pandemic has accelerated the way in which employers respond to the mental health needs of their people. And we know that flexibility can reduce workplace stress, boost mental well-being and encourage productivity.
“It’s not surprising that organisations are investing in benefits that prioritise flexible work arrangements. It’s integral to the employee experience.”
So, while the pandemic may have been terrible for so many different reasons, it could actually be the start of a radical upheaval in the way that we work, with the four-day work week playing a central role in employment.