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The 9-day fortnight


6 April 2023

According to the Human Capital Management Institute, companies that invested one dollar per employee into wellbeing initiatives outperformed their competitors and experienced a 12% gain in productivity. The 9-day fortnight is one of the latest wellbeing initiatives gaining popularity and may soon be the difference between keeping and losing the best performing staff.

As a mental health and overall productivity-enhancer, it’s hard to argue that we wouldn’t all be better off if we worked less. Recruitment and training costs reduce too, with less turnover of staff and fewer sick days taken.

For many small businesses, planning for employees working nine days instead of ten may be something they’re doing anyway. But for any business no matter the size, servicing clients effectively is likely the main challenge.

Two key things emerge most often:

  • A “buddy system” needs to be put in place to ensure days off are covered seamlessly; and
  • Businesses need robust and ongoing feedback because it won’t ever be a one-size-fits-all.

For some parents of young kids, an extra day off means they get plenty of admin tasks done, while for others, having shorter days is a better option. Some businesses are giving staff the choice, with the vast majority in favour of the shorter fortnight.

It likely comes down to leadership. Effective leaders will achieve the productivity gains and get the benefit of happier, more productive employees. They will need to manage client expectations, and it may mean communication to a specific staff member is delayed because it’s their day off.

As the studies suggest, it begins with consulting your employees. Ask them what they’d like to see happen and go from there.

Key HR aspects to consider:

  • Is it realistic to service clients effectively with staff unavailable some days?
  • Who will have what days off, or will everyone have the same day? (businesses report both models)
  • Will work bleed into that tenth day anyway, when things get busy?
  • Will others do tasks on behalf of the employee who is absent? If so, how will this impact on their workload and wellbeing?
  • How do you allocate days off fairly?
  • How will this impact on annual leave accrual? What will be communicated around this (overall while there may be little difference, it may be more about communication around perceived loss of accrued time)
  • What other impacts does the team anticipate?
  • How will you measure success? Eg, HR metrics – reduced turnover, profit

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