Moving to a five-day work week seems to help construction worker wellbeing. 

An interim report by RMIT University, in collaboration with the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT), studied the outcomes of a new schedule across five pilot infrastructure projects.

The research found significant support for the five-day work week, with 84 per cent of salaried workers and 61 per cent of hourly workers preferring it over the traditional six-day schedule. 

The change aims to address longstanding issues in the industry, including insufficient personal time, poor health and well-being, and challenges in attracting a diverse workforce.

Professor Helen Lingard, project lead at RMIT, says that the primary advantage reported by workers was having more time for personal life, including family, friends, and sports. 

“We found the majority of workers, irrespective of gender, preferred a five-day work week,” Professor Lingard explained.

Professor Michelle Turner says two-day weekends are needed for adequate rest, which in turn enhances productivity and mental well-being. 

Workers reported feeling well-rested and more prepared for the new work week, with positive effects on their mental health.

Although there were initial concerns that a shorter work week might delay projects and decrease earnings, these fears subsided once workers experienced the new schedule. 

Professor Lingard observed that productivity was largely unaffected, even during peak construction periods, and many found Saturday to be a less productive workday anyway.

“Some participants said they were more productive working five days because they knew they were not working on the Saturday,” added Professor Lingard. 

This sentiment was echoed by a worker who told researchers; “I think, when you do stupid hours, like 70 to 80 hours, I don't think you get any more work done. I think you're just less effective and you're tired.”

Despite initial worries about reduced pay, many workers felt the trade-off was worthwhile for the greater personal time. 

However, Professor Turner indicated that younger workers without family obligations expressed a preference for working Saturdays to enhance their earnings.

Culture in Construction Pilot Projects: Interim Report’ was published by Construction Work Health and Safety Research @ RMIT University.