Is it time to farewell the five-day work week for good?

Zoya Patel 6 October 2021 12
hiit Republic Erindale

A four-day week or flexible hours will leave more time for leisure and health. Photo: Region Media.

One of the surprise benefits of the pandemic for those of us with full-time office-based jobs is the increase in flexibility when it comes to our working hours. Many people have chosen to adjust their hours, and working from home has proven to be more effective than employers may have expected.

It wasn’t that long ago that we were debating as a culture whether more flexible working arrangements would work in large office environments. I remember being employed by a federal government agency (an experience familiar to a large portion of Canberrans!) and watching the organisation grapple with whether flexible working arrangements could reasonably be extended to more employees, instead of just those with caring responsibilities, which had been the status quo up to that point.

The questions sound ridiculously arcane now, in the pandemic world, where everyone has had to pivot to working remotely where possible, and it’s worked out mostly fine.


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There’s no doubt that home learning for those with children has added an extra layer of complexity, but my networks have reported that being able to build a routine around work and home responsibilities that fit their schedules have taken the pressure off, and many are dreading a return to ‘normal’.

It seems like an opportune time to dismantle ‘normal’ and build something new that allows people to work and contribute to the economy while also having the balance between enjoying their lives, relationships and caring for their health.

Of course, long term working from home may not be an option for everyone, but reducing the workweek to four days could be beneficial to both employers and employees and is a format that has been trialled at various private companies with some success.

Rather than having staff reduce to ‘part-time’ hours, the four-day workweek concept keeps employees remunerated at the same salary but reduces their working hours by a day. It can enhance productivity, employee wellbeing and reduce overheads if implemented well.


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Anyone who has ever worked ‘part-time’ will tell you that their workload is usually equivalent to a full-time employee, they just do it in less time. I watch the working parents I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years use their exceptional organisation skills to manage their busy workload with school pick up and home commitments, and it’s clear that the juggle is real.

It’s no secret that the Australian culture of work celebrates busyness and rewards workaholic tendencies. It can sometimes feel like there’s a constant expectation of burnout, and conversations in the workplace can feel like a never-ending game of ‘who’s the busiest?’, with a sense of embarrassment in admitting that your workload is actually quite reasonable.

But when lockdown gave everyone a chance to breathe out for a second, it gave space to explore whether this culture has been serving us well.


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How much better would it be if weekends weren’t a frantic dash to do all the life admin that piles up through the week in preparation for another five days of 9 to 5? Imagine if we could all balance our interests, hobbies, relationships and fitness without having to sacrifice our salaries when we know that we’ll be doing five days of work regardless of our hours?

Sure, it won’t work for every industry, and there needs to be clear accountability measures in place, but it’s definitely not impossible and it bears consideration.

Is it time we scrapped the five-day working week, or is it just a pandemic pipe dream?


What's Your Opinion?


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12 Responses to Is it time to farewell the five-day work week for good?
Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 12:01 am 08 Oct 21

Oh Zoya, sorry to say that I find this article as sadly your most worst written, very disappointing.

This pandemic has certainly not “brought some balance to many lives” ..

As for “surprise benefits of the pandemic for those of us with full-time office-based jobs is the increase in flexibility when it comes to our working hours” – well that’s just it …not all have the luxury of office-based jobs…

The flexibility to negotiate office based work hours has ALWAYS been the case (way before this current sensational pandemic)

The approval always depended on your particular gov dept or private company (and the personal/subjective endorsement from your immediate supervisor)

As for “reducing the workweek to four days could be beneficial to both employers and employees” – this is hardly a new concept, this has been promoted in Europe and esp Scandinavian countries for quite some time – reducing weekly work hours for better work/life balance..(& remuneration is calculated accordingly)

Again, this has always been the option to negotiate with your employer (if they approved) – work 10 hours a day for 4 x days, to complete a 40 hour working ‘week’ in 4 days, instead of 8 x hours per day for a 5 day working week – to receive the same salary.

With “Rather than having staff reduce to ‘part-time’ hours, the four-day workweek concept keeps employees remunerated at the same salary” – please explain how do you expect an employer to pay their employees at their same remunerated salary if they are actually doing LESS work hours according to their original agreed AWA (Australian workplace agreement)? Surely you cannot agree to pay the same salary for a job if they only work 32 hours as opposed to 40 hours?

All good if the employee reduces their work week to 32 hours/ 4 days and gets remunerated accordingly – and that has always been a choice & option.

With “Imagine if we could all balance our interests, hobbies, relationships and fitness without having to sacrifice our salaries when we know that we’ll be doing five days of work regardless of our hours?” – this does not make sense?

Regardless of 5 x days of work or otherwise – it is the actual work HOURS per week – whether 40 hours is spread across 5, 4 or 7 days - 40 hours is still 40 hours…if you want more balance to do hobbies, fitness etc – then reduce YOUR paid work hours/salary – simple.

Yes YOU will need to sacrifice your salary/earnings for this privilege, all good because that is the option you have chosen – great to choose more personal balance over money/salary, if that suits.

But you cannot seriously expect any employer to keep paying you the same salary for less hours worked per week?

It is up to you to make the financial sacrifice if you choose to do so and not put the liability on any employer.

Natasha Fregona Natasha Fregona 5:39 pm 07 Oct 21

Chris Dalton the dream!!

Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 4:49 pm 07 Oct 21

Who’s going to drive my school bus on day 5?

David Warner David Warner 8:53 am 07 Oct 21

But when we don't get paid for 5 days we don't have enough money

Dave Wilkinson Dave Wilkinson 8:34 am 07 Oct 21

And who can afford to live on 4 days pay?

    Cath Roo Grassick Cath Roo Grassick 8:51 am 07 Oct 21

    Dave Wilkinson a 4 day work week simply means 40 hours over 4 days a week instead of 5 days. Doesn't affect your bottom line. Obviously won't suit all industries where a constant presence is required although appropriate planning could make it work. It's a good idea and time for a change.

    Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 11:02 am 07 Oct 21

    Tell me you didn’t read the article, without telling me you didn’t read the article.

    Ian Don Ian Don 11:39 am 07 Oct 21

    Cath Roo Grassick

    I have had the situation where I could do that, and it was way worse than 5 by 8 hour days. You are just fried by the end of a 10 hour day. Anything pre-post work such as exercise or sports is a half effort.

    My sweet spot is 4 days of 8.5 hours and then leave early on the last day.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 12:06 am 08 Oct 21

    Steph Jackman but did you actually comprehend it fully?

    I did post a response later - for your reading pleasure (or not)

    Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 12:21 am 08 Oct 21

    Nada Krstin I certainly did comprehend it.. I skimmed your essay because quite frankly it’s painful to read and rife with inaccuracies.. most of these office/gov jobs you refer to actually have 7.21-7.5hr days, therefore 37.5/week at most.. thus the employer is getting more benefit technically. And I know you’re going to argue, ‘but Steph, who actually sticks to the 7.5 hour day’ .. Exactly Nada... we’re already offering our employers above and beyond outside of our salaried hours.

    So, as per the article (and as also stated - it WONT suit for every employee type) creating a better work life balance is a great idea.

    I also propose to you... why the 5 day a week?... It’s an archaic standardisation, that’s stems from times when the women were at home taking care of the house/children, while the men went to work. Now we ALL have jobs AND personal responsibilities... what’s so wrong with proposing a progressive approach to the new world.. like many other things in this new century.

    Why should 4 days be such a preposterous suggestion.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 1:37 am 08 Oct 21

    Steph Jackman Umm maybe you didn’t really comprehend my post (esp if you ‘skimmed’ over it) – but I get that because we all are subjective with our individual/chosen/reactive interpretations..

    Sure, ‘splitting hairs’ makes your response more valid “7.21-7.5hr days, therefore 37.5/week at most” – wow, 2.5 hours per week difference, first world disastrous problem!

    So how is ‘the employer is getting more benefit technically’ & ‘we’re already offering our employers above and beyond outside of our salaried hours’ - you work your hours, you get paid accordingly, right?

    If you feel you are being taken advantage of, then you can always leave and find another job..

    FYI – I do work in a gov dept where our AWA is 40 hours per week (because our half hour is incorporated in as our lunch break) – same same in the end with your 37.5 hr week...

    Re ‘Why should 4 days be such a preposterous suggestion’ - I never said that (but then you know if you actually read my post fully) – yes, you can work a 4 day week/with reduced hours and reduced salary – totally your choice, always has been – just organise it with your dept & HR – simple!

    Lastly, just be ever grateful that you have the luxury of a public service secure job – most don’t – esp in this horrid time of lock down where so many have lost their earning capacity & livelihoods - put your personal whining into perspective in this ‘new century’

    Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 7:51 am 08 Oct 21

    Nada Krstin This is ridiculous. I’ve invalidated your point that the employer would have to be paying an employee the same even after they’ve reduce their hours, because they HAVEN’T. So no, not splitting hairs... also the same point I was making when replying to this poster (where you’ve butted in).

    - A 4 day week with the same salary is not typically one that would be approved by most HR, hence the

    article, to make it the norm.

    - Lunch doesn’t magically stop on a four day week.. and if it’s unpaid, what’s your point here?

    - I love my Job, and have always been grateful to be employed, I just support trying it in a different format. Again not sure your point, I never said otherwise?

    - As for my ‘whining’ that also never happened, and so on that note, I’m done conversing with you.

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