A four-day work week? Why not?

How does a four-day work week on full pay sound?

According to a Bloomberg report quoted in the PMBC eBizBlitz, Unilever will trial a four-day work week in its New Zealand operation to enhance worker wellbeing and boost productivity. According to New Zealand MD, Nick Bangs: ‘Our goal is to measure performance on output, not time.’

And there is the rub. Of course we want to measure output not time spent. We have struggled with this issue since Covid-19 forced people to work from home, their time unsupervised. But what does output look like?

Manual labour is relatively simple. A certain area should be cleared and cleaned by the end of the week. This room should be painted by the end of the day.

At higher levels, it is also relatively easy to define areas of responsibility and key performance measures.

Administrative positions are much more difficult.

We might be clear about the tasks a debtors’ clerk performs, but unless we separate out and micromanage each task, measuring and managing outputs is difficult.

But the real difficulty is that managers have to release control and give away authority.

It starts with what a debtors’ clerk must achieve. For example, keeping the debtors’ book down to an average 45 days and a maximum level of bad debt.

Then we have to give them authority to speak to clients and some clout with the sales department to rein in their offers of extended payment plans. We don’t get to watch over their shoulder and monitor their minutes. And we’ll have nothing to say if we find them having a morning latte in the local coffee shop or walking their dog in the afternoon.

The first question then, is whether we, as managers, are willing to change our way of working, learn to trust and increase levels of authority.

What difficulties have you found in managing outputs and managing remotely? Do let me know.


Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people and HR & people-management consulting.

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