-->
Careers, Diversity and inclusion, Latest News, Research

Five-day work week to change construction landscape

Five-day work week to change construction landscape

While construction workers traditionally work six days a week, new research indicates that adopting a five-day work week within the industry could significantly enhance worker wellbeing.

Led by RMIT University in collaboration with the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT), the study tracked five pilot infrastructure projects trialling a five-day work week. The initiative aimed to address issues such as the lack of time for life, poor health and wellbeing, and difficulty in attracting a diverse workforce.

A survey conducted at three of the pilot sites found that 84 per cent of workers on an annual salary and 61 per cent of workers on an hourly wage supported a five-day work week over a six-day work week.

Project lead, RMIT distinguished professor Helen Lingard, said having more time for life outside work was the most common reason workers supported the five-day work week.

“We found the majority of workers, irrespective of gender, preferred a five-day work week because it allowed them to spend more time with their family, see their friends or play sports,” said Lingard, from RMIT’s School of Property Construction and Project Management.

Related stories:

Chief Investigator and RMIT professor Michelle Turner said having a two-day weekend was important to allow workers to rest properly before another work week began.

“The advantage of being well rested not only helps with productivity but improves wellbeing and mental health,” said Turner.

Workers interviewed talked about “a better state of mental wellbeing” and said the shorter work week was “a massive step in the right direction”.

This backs previous findings through Lingard and Turner’s prior research with the CICT, which found young people were deterred from joining the construction industry because of the long and inflexible hours and lack of time for life.

“We are seeing a shift in priorities in the next generation of workers, and the construction industry needs to adapt to attract and retain good workers,” said Lingard.

Effects on pay, productivity and wellbeing

Interviews showed some workers were initially concerned the shorter work week would impact project deadlines and reduce pay. But, for the most part, those views changed once people experienced working a five-day week, Lingard said.

Participants found the five-day work week had minimal impact on productivity, even when site-based construction activity ramped up.

“Many workers we interviewed said Saturday was typically not a productive work day across the construction industry,” Lingard said. “Some participants said they were more productive working five days because they knew they were not working on the Saturday.”

Some participants thought working longer hours actually reduced productivity, instead of increasing it. “I think, when you do stupid hours, like 70 to 80 hours, I don’t think you get any more work done,” said one worker. “I think you’re just less effective and you’re tired.”

One supervisor said they preferred to have a happy and well-rested team, which produced a net improvement in productivity. “When you start the week tired, there’s more risk of things going wrong, accidents and stress,” they said.

Concerns about pay reductions were also substantially reduced once the projects began.

“Many of those who were concerned about pay actually indicated in their second interview that the slight reduction in pay was worth it because they could spend more time with their families during the weekends,” said Lingard.

However, Turner said some of the younger workers liked having the option to work on a Saturday.

“Younger workers who are establishing their careers and do not have family responsibilities expressed a preference to work on Saturdays to earn more money,” said Turner. “All these findings point towards the crucial need for more choice and flexibility for workers in construction, which can have positive benefits to wellbeing.”

“A flexible workplace can enable families to share the caring load better, which will help to attract women to the industry and also men who want to participate more actively in family life.”

Gender diversity in construction

The report found women, who made up almost half the interview participants in the study, mostly felt respected and accepted while working on the pilot projects.

Lingard said there was still more work to be done, but the initiatives piloted in this project – such as mentoring programs for women and incorporating respect policies in subcontract agreements – demonstrated great potential to change the culture of the industry.

“In order to encourage more women to work in the industry, we need to create a good working environment that is inclusive and respectful to help all workers thrive,” said Lingard.

Culture in Construction Pilot Projects: Interim Report was published by Construction Work Health and Safety Research @ RMIT University. Helen Lingard, Michelle Turner, Payam Pirzadeh and Katy Chan are co-authors.

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend