Four-day working weeks are increasingly becoming a concept that companies are open to, but how would commercial markets react if the trend became widespread?
With many corporate offices now more willing to entertain remote working conditions like permanent or partial work-from-home arrangements, conversations around other flexible options have begun to be raised.
The four-day working week is one that has been gaining in popularity and has been trialled or implemented at companies with just a handful of employees to hundreds.
While workers tend to react positively to the policy, many in the commercial sector might be worried about its impact on the office market.
Buyer’s agent Helen Tarrant believes we can take some lessons from how offices have adapted to the remote work revolution in examining how the market might fare in the face of a four-day week.
She is seeing that over the past two years, companies have realised the importance of maintaining an office to foster culture while also being more open to flexibility, which has led to a level of stability for the office market.
“A four-day work week in theory won’t be too dissimilar from what Australians have been used to during COVID-19 lockdowns. We will see many people continue to move outside CBD areas, buy up larger homes that also have space for home-offices and work with their employers to agree upon flexible hours that suit their lifestyles,” she said.
“However, what I believe will occur is that employers will want the confidence that their team can still operate effectively in the office, so it’s likely we’ll see the introduction of mandated office hours/days, split office teams etc.”
One reason that four-day working weeks have become so popular is because studies have shown that longer breaks allow workers the rest they require to maintain high levels of productivity during their working hours. Some businesses have emphasised the need to have workers in the office and available for in-person collaboration during their four “on days” to keep productivity at optimal levels. In this scenario, office space actually becomes more important than ever.
Ms Tarrant believes that a four-day working week also has the potential to shake up the industry in interesting ways. The under-utilisation of office space for three or even four days a week could lead to “disruptors creating new workplace concepts”, she said.
In the meantime, the industry is noting that with more flexibility being given to workers, corporate tenants are needing the same.
“Many organisations are now requesting shorter leases – where most people would tend to lock themselves into a five- to seven-year office lease, this has changed to two to four years, with options to renew or change at various periods. This is really to ensure that each company has the flexibility to scale their office demands up or down,” Ms Tarrant explained.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.
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