All 81 staff members in New Zealand will keep their full salary but will have their hours slashed by 20 per cent.
Managing director of Unilever New Zealand Nick Bangs said the momentum was building for a four-day week in the wake of coronavirus crisis.
“This is an exciting moment for our team and a validation of the catalytic role Covid-19 has played in shaking up standard working practices,” said Mr Bangs.
“Unilever NZ’s strong growth trajectory as a business makes this the perfect time in our life cycle to drive something new and ambitious.”
Unilever NZ said it will work with the University of Technology (UTS) Business School in Sydney, Australia, to measure the qualitative results of the trial.
The company, which distributes Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Lipton, said it will train some of its employees in a project management method called Agile.
Agile breaks work into short phases with frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans. According to Unilever NZ, Agile is a system that “eliminates work that adds no value and unnecessary bureaucracy”.
Mr Bangs added that the company was inspired by Andrew Barnes and his team at Perpetual Guardian.
The New Zealand financial services company introduced a four-day week for its 240 members of staff in 2018. According to a study of the trial released last year, productivity increased by 20 per cent.
“Our goal is to measure performance on output, not time,” said Mr Bangs.
“We believe the old ways of working are outdated and no longer fit for purpose.
“We hope the trial will result in Unilever being the first global company to embrace ways of working that provide tangible benefits for staff and for business.”
Earlier this year, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern encouraged employers to consider a four-day working week.
She said at the time: “I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day workweek. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees. But as I’ve said there’s just so much we’ve learnt about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that.
“I’d really encourage people to think about that if you’re an employer and in a position to do so. To think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”
Unilever, which employs more than 150,000 people globally, said it will explore the possibility of introducing a four-day working on a broader scale in the company in the future.
The trial will run from December 2020 to December 2021.