Is Australia moving towards a four-day work week? Mercer’s Australian Benefits Review suggests it could be

Australia, September, 30 2021

The trend towards offering a compressed work week as a form of flexible working is on the rise, according to Mercer’s 2021 Australian Benefits Review released today. Organisations offering compressed work weeks – full time hours over four days rather than five, for example – has risen by 29 per cent over the last four years. Today, more than one in four Australian organisations (27 per cent) are offering this benefit to employees.


The way we work has radically changed, and we are redefining our workplaces and working models accordingly. In addition, the war for talent has intensified due to continued border closures, and as a result Australian businesses are reimagining their benefits programs in their efforts to attract and retain employees. Chi Tran, Head of Market Insights and Data at Mercer’s workforce consulting practice said that flexibility and wellbeing continue to be a priority.


“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,” Ms Tran 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.”


Research has suggested that a four-day work week can have a direct correlation to overall productivity and general mental health and wellbeing.


“Trials of a four-day work week in Iceland were an overwhelming success and led to many workers moving to shorter hours. Workers reported feeling less stressed and at risk of burnout, and said their health and work-life balance had improved,” said Ms Tran.


Employers are also looking at opportunities to evolve their employee wellbeing programs. For example, over the past 12 months, there has been an eight per cent increase in the number of organisations providing health and wellbeing education sessions (now provided by 61 per cent of all organisations).


“We’re seeing organisations take a different and more creative approach to the benefits they provide their employees. It’s becoming less about offering a generic, uniform suite of benefits for everyone, and evolving to become more personalised, collaborative and flexible.”


Some of the more creative benefits organisations are offering include sleep support; fertility and adoption reimbursements; wellness cash allowances and second medical opinion services.


Additional employee wellbeing and flexibility facts:

  • The vast majority (97 per cent) of organisations report having a health and wellness benefits program.
  • Most commonly provided items in the health and wellness programs include free access to healthy food, flu vaccinations, and health and wellbeing education seminars.
  • 95 per cent of organisations offer an Employee Assistance Program, up from 89 per cent in 2019.
  • On average, 52 per cent of organisations offer financial advice/education services as a benefit. This is most commonly provided as group education seminars that help employees manage their overall finances.
  • 76 per cent of organisations have a formal strategy or policy in place to support flexible work arrangements.

The Australian Benefits Review (ABR) is the largest and most comprehensive employee benefits data source in the Australian market. The 2021 report captures data from 378 participating organisations across a variety of industries. Intended as a single reference point for all major benefit and HR policy areas in the Australian market, ABR captures detailed information on wellbeing, wealth and career development policies. Learn more here.


About Mercer

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s approximately 25,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 76,000 colleagues and annual revenue of over $18 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including MarshGuy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter @MercerAU and LinkedIn.

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