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February 2, 2023

Grant Thornton is Trialing a “Nine-Day Fortnight” Schedule to Ease Burnout in Australia

illustration symbolizing burnout

In a profession already notorious for burnout, staffing crises continue to wreak havoc on the personal lives of accountants everywhere much to the detriment of firms that refuse to turn down work yet lack the warm bodies to get it done. Grant Thornton has a crazy idea to alleviate at least a little of that.

Australian Financial Review reports that GT is trialing a “nine-day fortnight” schedule starting next March without cutting anyone’s pay, so in essence it’s a two-week period which eliminates one day of work that you can use how you like to recharge. Here’s how a UK recruiting company explains it:

The 9-day fortnight is full-time hours
When you work five days one week and four days the next, your status remains as a full-time employee. This means you compress your working week into nine days where you either make up the hours you’ll be missing or take a small pay cut (typically around 10%).

Why choose a 9-day fortnight:

  • Get a free day every other week
  • Keep your income level
  • Progress your career
  • No ‘part-time’ label

Deborah O’Sullivan, MD at Ten2Two says, “A 9-day fortnight can be good for employers who are nervous about the business impact of approving a flexible working request in certain situations, particularly where the member of the team is so senior that they don’t feel they can lose their time in case it affects day-to-day business requirements.”

AFR writes:

[Grant Thornton] has recorded a significant uptick in work over the past two years but this, combined with the white-collar talent crunch, meant that its people were “working long hours” and “exhausted”, CEO Greg Keith said.

Greg Keith hopes a reduced workweek will improve staff wellbeing and productivity.

Looking for solutions that would improve staff wellbeing without compromising on work quality, his firm settled on trialling a nine-day fortnight in the hope it would refresh its people, reduce sick leave and improve productivity.

“This is counterintuitive – in an environment where we believe there are more opportunities than there are people, we’re reducing our hours,” he said. “But if we can make this work, then we will be working more efficiently, which will also ensure that our people have more interesting work.” Note to Mr. Keith: burned out people often find it difficult to be interested in work, especially when more of it is piled on them.

Scrolling down further, we see that “Nine-Day Fortnights” might occasionally average out to more than that over a longer period:

All Grant Thornton’s offices nationally will still be open five days a week to meet client needs during the trial, but staff will average across nine days each fortnight. This could involve 4.5-day weeks, nine-day fortnights, or some full 10-day fortnights in busy periods balanced with four-day weeks in quiet times.

“Our expectation is that if our people can be refreshed, that will have a direct effect on their health and wellbeing which in turn will have a direct flow-on to the quality of work which we deliver to our clients and the experience clients have,” Mr Keith said.

“With so many of the professional services’ workforce reporting increased stress and health issues, we remain convinced the current system is broken. We will be bold in trying something different as we want a better outcome for our people and our clients,” he said.

Keith said GT might pilot a four-day workweek depending on how this nine-day fortnight thing goes. Nine-day fortnights could become permanent if the trial goes well, “well” being defined by the firm as “maintaining the same training, business development and billable hours as in a 10-day fortnight, as well as improving client satisfaction, staff wellbeing and talent retention and attraction and potentially reducing sick leave.”

National accounting firm to trial nine-day fortnight [Australian Financial Review]

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