SEARCHING for fulfilment after a series of odd jobs and time abroad lead to Shanu Walsh and Dominic Hurley creating an alcoholic kombucha company.
Murwillumbah-based Ventura Brewing is a small batch, crafted brewed ‘hard’ kombucha which is hoping to offer an alternative from the craft beers and ciders currently on the market.
“It falls in a category of its own, it’s such a new realm in the beverage industry … it’s not really cider, it’s not beer and nor is it wine,” Shanu said.
“This is a whole new category because the alcoholic side hasn’t been done so much before so it was pretty tricky when we were getting started cause we couldn’t just follow how to become a beer brewer so we had to take things from different industries and make it our own,” Dominic said.
The brewing has been a two year process which began, initially, as desire to escape a series of mundane jobs.
“We sort of went into these mundane jobs and we spent some time together overseas as well … eventually we saw the craft beer industry in America and we’re so passionate about food, the craft industry and we saw the shortfall in the Australian market and how far we can go,” Shanu said.
“We started brewing small-scale Kombucha in my basement, we made a few batches and got some good results and it needed a lot of refining along the way but we realised there was something we could make out of it.”
As the operation grew, the duo moved the business from Shanu’s basement and into a sizeable warehouse in Lundberg Dr with room to grow.
“Primarily it’s going to be a production facility but to say we don’t want to set up a tasting room and be able to have people drop in and fill up a growler and do the growler recycling thing or doing an event here, we want to go down that way,” Shanu said.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America recently announced that it would remove former Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ name from the plaques awarded to the American and National League MVPs.
Landis has had his defenders over the years. In the past, essayist David Kaiser, baseball historian Norman Macht, Landis biographer David Pietrusza and the commissioner’s nephew, Lincoln Landis, have claimed that there is no evidence that Landis said or did anything racist.
But in my view, it’s what he didn’t say and didn’t do that made him a racist.
However those who ran the league possessed far more power than sportswriters. Landis, along with the owners, knew that there were Black players good enough to play in the big leagues. If he wanted to integrate Major League Baseball, he could have.
Instead, he did all he could to prevent the rest of America from knowing just how talented Black baseball players were.
Petitions go ignored
By the time Landis became commissioner in 1920, baseball had been segregated ever since a so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” took place among team owners in the 1880s.
However, it was common practice in the 1920s for Major League teams to earn extra money in the off-season by playing Black teams in exhibition games. Landis put a halt to these games because he wanted to end the embarrassment of the Black teams’ winning so often.
It is worth noting that Black athletes competed with white ones in other sports in the 1920s and 1930s, including boxing, college tennis, college football and, for several years, the National Football League. Black athletes also represented the United States in the Olympics.
In their editorials and articles, Worker sportswriters chronicled the accomplishments of Negro League stars and told readers that struggling Major League teams could improve their chances by signing Black players. Meanwhile, Communist activists organized protests and circulated petition drives outside the ballparks of New York’s three Major League teams – the Yankees, Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers – demanding that teams sign Black players.
The petitions, which had, according to one estimate, a million signatures, were then sent off to the commissioner’s office. They were ignored. The Daily Worker regularly focused on Landis as the person responsible for the color line, while the Black press derisively called him “the Great White Father.”
Landis suspended Powell not because the ballplayer used a slur, but because it was heard by fans, and Black activists pressured the commissioner to do something. While Landis ended up punishing a racist player, he did nothing to end racial discrimination against Black players.
Furthermore, Landis refused to allow players and managers to speak on the issue. When Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher was quoted in a 1942 Daily Worker article saying he would sign Black players if he were allowed to, Landis ordered Durocher to deny that he made the statement.
The following year, Landis again subverted the campaign to end segregation in the sport.
Sam Lacy, who was then working for the Chicago Defender, repeatedly asked Landis for a meeting to talk about the color line. When Landis finally agreed, Lacy asked the commissioner if he could make the case for integration at baseball’s annual meeting.
Landis, without telling Lacy, invited the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association. Also invited to speak was Paul Robeson, the onetime college football star who had become an actor, singer, writer – and avowed Communist. Lacy was incensed that Robeson would be asked to address the conservative white owners about the sensitive issue of integration.
To Lacy, the presence of Robeson meant that Landis could plant seeds of suspicion with white owners and sportswriters that the campaign to integrate baseball was a Communist front.
Lacy wrote in a column that Landis reminded him of a cartoon he had seen of a man extending his right hand in a gesture of friendship while clenching a long knife that was hidden in his left hand.
Landis died in December 1944, and Lacy finally got a chance to address team executives in March of the following year. Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey ended up signing Jackie Robinson to a contract several months later, thus ending segregation in baseball.
Lee Lowenfish, Rickey’s biographer, was convinced that Landis would have tried to stop the Brooklyn executive from signing Robinson.
I believe it is no coincidence that baseball remained segregated during Landis’ reign as commissioner – or that it became integrated only after he died.
Private briefings from two senior White House aides to a conservative institution at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak led investors to short the stock market and even load up on toilet paper, according to a published report.
That led William Callanan, a Hoover board member, to write a memo to David Tepper, the founder of hedge fund Appaloosa Management, and a Tepper aide, the report said. Callanan allegedly wrote that he found it striking that they both mentioned their concerns, unprovoked. The email was then circulated to other Appaloosa employees, who discussed the memo with other investors. The report said the memo helped convince investors to short the stock market.
Philipson, publicly, told a business conference the White House was taking a “wait-and-see” approach on the economic impact, which he limited to the fallout on the U.S. from Chinese lockdowns. Philipson also pointed out the deaths from flu each year don’t make a material impact on the economy.
“We have contained this. I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight,” Kudlow said on CNBC.
Callanan told the New York Times the confidential memo the newspaper received was different from what he sent to Tepper, though he didn’t say in what way, and that it was based on extensive research and publicly available information. The report said Callanan also briefed another well-known investor. Callanan, now a consultant, previously had stints at Soros Fund Management, Duquesne Capital and Fortress Investment Group.
Tepper, also the owner of the Carolina Panthers NFL team, initially denied receiving the memo before later telling the New York Times that Appaloosa already had placed its bet on the market to fall before receiving it.
Tepper did raise concerns publicly about coronavirus at the beginning of February.
Philipson said he doesn’t remember the specifics of his talk to Hoover, though he acknowledged making comments to that effect. Kudlow said he didn’t think his comments to Hoover were any different than he had made on CNBC, and pointed out the case tally at the time was less than 20.
The New York Times report didn’t identify who stocked up on toilet paper.
The S&P 500 SPX, -0.66%
topped out on Feb. 19, and had only fallen 1.5% by the time the Hoover briefings began. The S&P 500 was down by 13% from its peak by the end of the week.
Hogan was subsequently charged with failing to comply with a direction after police attended his address and he made full admissions.
He completed the remainder of his quarantine period in a supervised hotel and was released on October 5.
During his sentencing at Fremantle Magistrates Court on Tuesday, the police prosecutor said Hogan had text the woman and invited her to visit, asking her not to park on his driveway.
She came to the house, however an argument broke out between the pair and the woman left.
Mr Dobson said Hogan followed the woman outside and convinced her to stay the evening as she was drunk and couldn’t drive.
He said Hogan realised the seriousness of the pandemic and accepted he should have complied with the direction.
“From March 2020 he was tested [for coronavirus] at least twice a week … he was tested non-stop when he was in the hub,” Mr Dobson said.
“When he flew back it was from Queensland which I understand to be a much safer state … [the team] were all tested a day before they got on the plane.
“He is a decent person … he wasn’t this arrogant AFL player that has been commented by people in the media.”
Despite his lawyer informing the court Hogan may move to a “rugby league state” at some point in his future and not be a recognisable face, and should be granted a spent conviction, the Magistrate recorded the conviction against him.
Hogan declined to speak with media outside court.
He has one year to run on a three-year deal he signed at the end of 2018 when he was traded from Melbourne.
The key forward was in and out of the Fremantle side this year, managing just seven matches and being swung from end to end, having taken leave from the club in January to deal with mental health issues.
He finished the season reasonably well, kicking four goals in round 17 against North Melbourne and then performing solidly in round 18 against the Western Bulldogs.
His 2019 campaign was cut short by a serious foot injury.
The Dockers have been extremely disappointed by Hogan’s breach which has cast his future with the club in doubt.
Fremantle are open to off-loading him to another club if possible however a clear suitor is yet to emerge.
The Dockers also have a tight salary cap which would be challenged further should Hogan reach a games trigger in his contract, one which he is increasingly unlikely to hit.
Heather McNeill is a senior journalist at WAtoday.
A black man has sued police in Texas after officers led him through the streets by a rope after his arrest.
Donald Neely, 44, said the officers’ conduct was “extreme and outrageous” and caused him to suffer humiliation and fear.
Photos were published in August last year of him being led through Galveston by officers on horseback, with a rope linked to handcuffs, similar to historical pictures of slaves in chains.
He had been homeless and sleeping on a footpath when he was arrested for criminal trespass.
At the time, one officer could be heard on body-camera video saying twice that leading Mr Neely down the city’s streets in such a way would look “bad”.
Mr Neely has now sued the city’s police department for one million dollars (£770,000), accusing officers of negligence and saying they should have known he would consider it offensive to be led on the rope “as though he was a slave”.
The lawsuit said: “Neely felt as though he was put on display, as slaves once were.”
Last year, Galveston’s police chief apologised for what had happened.
Vernon Hale said in a statement that the technique was acceptable in some situations, such as crowd control, but the officers had “showed poor judgement in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of arrest”.
MINSK, Belarus — With masked riot police officers massing nearby, threatening to attack protesters like him with batons and fists, Aleksei D. Zulevsky felt safe for the first time in weeks of anti-government unrest in Belarus: He was surrounded by hundreds of women he knew would shield him.
“I feel protected here,” said Mr. Zulevsky, as fellow protesters, many holding red and white flags, the banner of the opposition, chanted at a rally last month. “Only cowards beat women!”
In a country whose strongman president, Aleksandr. G Lukashenko, has openly scoffed at women as too weak for politics and told them their place was in the kitchen, Belarusian women have become the face and driving force of a movement aimed at toppling a leader known as “Europe’s last dictator.”
That effort may be flagging, with Mr. Lukashenko refusing to give up power even though tens of thousands of people continue to come out to the streets of Minsk to protest every weekend. On Saturday many women, holding flowers in their hands, again protested in the city. They avoided forming a single crowd in fear of being arrested by police officers.
But whether or not the protest movement succeeds in ousting Mr. Lukashenko, it has already shattered deeply entrenched gender stereotypes built up over generations.
“Women were stronger in this situation,” said Tatiana N. Kotes, a film production designer and activist. “We had to assume a more significant role. Men’s dominating role in the society has collapsed.”
The collapse began even before an Aug. 9 presidential election that Mr. Lukashenko claimed to have won by a landslide, setting off two months of almost nonstop protests. To his obvious distaste, Mr. Lukashenko faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from a woman candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the wife of a popular blogger who had hoped to run himself but was imprisoned before he could register as a candidate.
Mr. Lukashenko mocked his rival as a housewife, a meek mother ill-equipped to debate serious issues of state with a veteran leader like himself.
“She just cooked a tasty cutlet, maybe fed the children, and the cutlet smelled nice,” Mr. Lukashenko said in an interview shortly before the election. “And now there’s supposed to be a debate about some issues.”
Adding to his rage and, perhaps, consternation, was the fact that the opposition, previously led by men and prone to bitter internal feuding, had united around three women — Ms. Tikhanovskaya, whom they backed as the candidate; Veronika Tsepkalo, the wife of a would-be candidate who fled the country to avoid arrest; and Maria Kolesnikova, the campaign manager for Viktor Babariko, a jailed banker who had also hoped to challenge Mr. Lukashenko.
With all the main male opposition figures knocked out of the race by arrest or flight abroad, Ms. Tikhanovskaya and her two colleagues ran a strategic and successful campaign, holding large rallies across the country while Mr. Lukashenko confined himself to Soviet-style visits to factories and military bases.
“At our first rallies, we were amazed to see how many people turned up,” Ms. Tsepkalo, 44, said in an interview. “It was a symbol of the unity of Belarusians against the dictatorship.”
Ms. Kolesnikova, the only one of the women to remain in Belarus after the election, achieved hero status when she tore up her passport to foil the government’s plan to deport her to Ukraine, and was then imprisoned.
The emergence of women in the protest movement — while surprising to many and, to Mr. Lukashenko, an affront to the natural order — drew on an important feature of the country’s national psychology left by the traumas of World War II, when a quarter of the population, mostly men, was wiped out.
Olga Shparaga, a feminist and lecturer in philosophy at the European College of Liberal Arts in Belarus, said the shortage of males left women to play an outsize role in rebuilding the devastated country once the war ended in 1945. Memories of this, she said, left even the most misogynistic Belarussians aware, deep down, of what women could accomplish.
Wartime memories have been kept alive and introduced to younger Belarusians with no recollection of the war or its aftermath by Svetlana Alexievich, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, who has made the role of women one of the main topics of her work.
“After the war, we children lived in a world of women,” Ms. Alexievich said in her Nobel lecture in 2015. “What I remember most is that women talked about love, not death.”
But it is perhaps Mr. Lukashenko himself who, inadvertently, has done more than anyone to advance the cause of feminism. Casting himself as a classic Slavic “muzhik,” or real man, Mr. Lukashenko has sneered at women with such abandon that he has become a caricature of boorish misogyny and an easy target for attack.
Sergei Chaly, a Belarusian political and economic analyst who worked with Mr. Lukashenko at the beginning of his political career in the 1990s, said Ms. Tikhanovskaya made a smart decision to portray herself as “a simple woman that just needs her husband and children, but who was selected by fate to fulfill a political role.”
That appealed to voters wary of the dominating and masculine style presented by Mr. Lukashenko throughout his 26 years in power.
“He got used to dealing with men by means of bullying and boorishness, but this didn’t work with women,” Mr. Chaly said.
After their leading role in the campaign it was only natural that women would step up in the protests that broke out after Mr. Lukashenko claimed an implausible 80 percent of the vote in the Aug. 9 election. In the days that followed, the streets of the capital, Minsk, became a perilous conflict zone. Thousands of protesters, mostly men, were arrested, and hundreds were beaten and tortured.
With the country in danger of sliding into violent strife as groups of aggressive young men appeared on the streets calling for revenge, women again took center stage. A small group of women activists organized a protest so conspicuously peaceable that, they calculated, even the most brutish riot police officer would hesitate to use force.
Hundreds of women descended hand-in-hand on the central market in Minsk, forming a human chain that left the police clearly baffled about how they should respond.
Beating unarmed women publicly risked embarrassing the law enforcement apparatus and opening up officers not only to public condemnation but perhaps even punishment by their superiors.
“Our government is always looking for organizers, but this idea was in the air, it was a feeling shared by all women in Belarus,” said Irina G. Sukhiy, an activist who joined the women’s protest.
The day after the first women’s march ended peacefully, thousands of women took to the streets in Minsk and other cities across the country. Mr. Lukashenko, who was counting that brute force would be enough to crush the protests, was thrown off balance and sought help from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
The immediate answer was to isolate the women leading the protests and drive them out of the country. More recently, masked police officers, many of them visibly embarrassed, have made mass arrests of women demonstrators. But most of those taken into custody were released after fingerprinting and a mug shot. Even the leaders, like Ms. Sukhiy, were sentenced to only several days of administrative arrest.
“They didn’t expect that a woman could stand against them,” said Ksenia A. Fyodorova, 47, an entrepreneur and activist, of the security forces. “We realized that you can only counter them in a way that would be diametrically opposed to what they did.”
Speaking with reporters in Berlin Wednesday after meeting with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, Ms. Tikhanovskaya said the role women have played in the uprising was as determined as it was unexpected.
“They are fighting for the future of their children,” she said. “They don’t want their children to be slaves of this system in the future.”
In the face of official brutality, she said, the women have responded by showing “peace and love.” As a broad smile broke across her face, she added, “Now, Belarusian women are world-known, and this is wonderful.”
“Deeply grateful and honoured to be selected for the final round in the selection process of the next @WTO Director General!” tweeted Yoo, who has a law degree from Vanderbilt University. “We need a capable & experienced new leader who can rebuild trust and restore relevance of the @WTO. I look forward to your continued support! Thank you!!!”
Okonjo-Iweala on Twitter thanked WTO members for their support and wrote that she was “happy to be in the final round.”
A previous round had cut the list of candidates from eight to five. The winner is expected to be announced no later than early November.
The previous WTO director-general, Roberto Azevedo of Brazil, made a surprise announcement in May that he would leave the job a year early, citing a “personal decision.” He left without a successor on August 31.
Azevedo’s seven-year tenure was marked by intense pressure from US President Donald Trump, who repeatedly accused the WTO of “unfair” treatment of the U.S. and started a trade war with China in defiance of the WTO system. In the past, Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the trade body altogether.
The WTO’s dispute settlement system is perhaps the world’s best-known venue for resolving international trade disputes – such as those pitting plane-makers Boeing and Airbus in recent decades. But the United States has clogged up the dispute settlement machinery by blocking any new members for its highest court, the Appellate Body, which has unable to address new disputes since last year.
The next director-general will face the daunting task of keeping the United States on board if Trump wins a second term, amid Washington’s allegations that China is engaged in unfair practices such as excessively subsidising industries and stealing intellectual property — notably at the expense of Western businesses hoping to tap the expanding Chinese market. China rejects the allegations.
The WTO, which was created in 1995 out of the former General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, has never had a woman director-general or national from Africa as its leader. It operates by consensus, meaning that any single member country can block decisions.
“Clubs big or small,” the chairman warned in March, “may struggle to exist” after the pandemic.
For Spurs, the timing of the shutdown could hardly have been worse. The club’s £1.2billion stadium was built to propel them into the stratosphere of super-clubs but overnight it became an expensive white elephant – until being put to important, albeit unprofitable, use as a NHS hospital.
The club forecast a £200million loss of revenue and increased their substantial debt by taking a £175m Bank of England loan. Against this backdrop of financial uncertainty, few imagined Spurs would have one of their best-ever transfer windows.
Suggestions that manager Jose Mourinho would have to rebuild his squad on a thin gruel of loans, free agents and swap deals proved unfounded, as Spurs spent over £60m on six new players, efficiently plugging weaknesses in the squad with proven quality and “characters”.
Spurs spent far less than summer 2019 but their impressive business still felt somewhat uncharacteristic. So, what were the main reasons for Spurs’ success in the transfer window?
For all the lingering questions about his management, Mourinho has lost none of his skill as a master manipulator of the public message, and he remains as effective at squeezing his superiors as any coach in the game.
The 57-year-old struck an effective balance between pressuring Levy and remaining firmly “on message”, particularly in his quest for a new striker. He repeatedly dismissed Heung-min Son as an option up front, even after the South Korean scored four times against Southampton, and so plain was Mourinho’s desire for a centre-forward, failure to deliver would have left Levy and the club on the back foot.
When Carlos Vinicius finally arrived on loan from Benfica, it felt like a personal triumph for Mourinho.
To understand Mourinho’s influence, it is worth comparing him with his predecessor, Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine was genuinely sceptical of new signings and more than once turned down players offered to him by the club, including Marco Asensio and Youri Tielemans.
Levy, in turn, is sceptical of the correlation between success and spending big, and the result was a relationship without enough productive tension to get difficult signings over the line.
By contrast, Levy and Mourinho have found a more fruitful balance, at least for now, with the pragmatic Portuguese more willing than Pochettino to accept suggestions from the club, as he did with Steven Bergwijn in January.
Levy, though, has maintained he would prioritise strengthening the squad once the stadium was finished, so it is fair to assume Pochettino would have eventually been allowed his “painful rebuild”.
This summer’s spending is, in part, simply a consequence of the club’s substantial growth over the past decade, and the completion of their expensive infrastructure projects.
There has also been an element of market opportunism in Spurs’ business. Levy leapt at the chance to sign Bale after being offered the Welshman by cash-strapped Real Madrid while discussing a deal for Sergio Reguilon, who, at around £26m, was a canny piece of business in a market depressed by the pandemic.
So, too, was Matt Doherty at £15m, while signing Joe Hart on a free transfer should prove profitable if Spurs sell Paulo Gazzaniga, as they still hope to in the new year.
Spurs have gambled on buying prudently while the market is flat in the hope it will bounce back to pre-Covid levels in time.
Bale and Carlos Vinicius, meanwhile, are both loan deals with limited risk attached, even if Bale’s wages will cost roughly £10m for the season – Levy successfully knocking off a £1m following the medical when it became clear the 31-year-old would not be fit for a month.
The loan deals, and a two-year deal for Hart, also add an element of Mourinho-proofing to the club’s business, ensuring Spurs are not left with several unwanted players if they are forced to replace the boom-and-bust specialist in the not-so-distant future.
The Everton effect
“It’s not a bad result that makes me change my idea,” Mourinho said after Tottenham’s opening-day defeat to Everton, when it was suggested the result had forced Tottenham’s hand in the transfer market.
The Spurs manager may have denied it but at least one source close to the club says the result galvanised Levy into action. Within days, Spurs were in talks with Real Madrid over both Bale and Reguilon, their biggest double signing since Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa in 1978, and they stepped up their attempts to sign a new centre-forward and centre-half.
The abject display against the Toffees made it seem not only possible but probable that Spurs would miss out on Champions League football for a second consecutive season, delivering another hammer blow to Levy’s careful curated long-term business plan. Suddenly, it became prudent to spend money to ensure Spurs would remain competitive.
After the game, Spurs were deflated but it could prove to be one of the club’s most important results in years.
Super-agent Jorge Mendes has been at the heart of many of the summer’s biggest transfers, including James Rodriguez’s move to Everton, Liverpool’s surprise capture of Diego Jota and Manchester City’s signing of Ruben Dias.
A close confidant of Mourinho, Mendes has also been influential at Spurs. He could hardly have been more central in the signing of Doherty, with Mendes both representing the 28-year-old right-back and advising Wolves’ Chinese owners, who own a stake in his agency, Gestifute. Mendes and Mourinho led the deal, which felt like a bargain for Spurs, and Doherty later admitted the manager had wooed him with text messages and calls before he joined.
Similarly, Mendes was the guiding hand in the loan move for Vinicius, which cost Spurs just £2.3m up front and has been met with dismayed fury by Benfica fans.
As one of the most well-connected, influential and canny agents in the game, Mendes feels like an important ally for Spurs, particularly in such uncertain times.
It was a magical year in Berlin that made urban planner Bryn Davies realise there was more to life than the daily grind.
After finishing a master’s degree in the United States in 2016, the 32-year-old decided to trade in the nine-to-five for an “incredibly romantic” sojourn in the German capital.
“For that year, I spent time with friends in the park, I went to clubs and I lived a life that was tactile, present and in the moment,” he says.
“It’s also when I got into furniture making and realised just how much I needed some romance in my life.”
After returning to Melbourne to take up a position as a ministerial advisor in the planning field, Mr Davies found himself in a rut.
His new job was “stressful and anxiety-inducing from the beginning”, and for 10 long months, he “wasn’t in the greatest headspace”.
“But then I realised I wasn’t being fair to Melbourne, because the way I was living my life was totally different.
“In Berlin, I made time for romance, and in Melbourne my life was entirely functional and productivity-driven.”
‘We’ve doubled our revenue’
So, Mr Davies decided to do what others only dream of: he asked his employer if he could work four days a week.
The fifth day would become what he calls a “romance day” — a conscious day dedicated only to passion projects (in his case, building furniture from recycled wood and even restoring an old sailboat and turning it into a pub), as opposed to home chores or admin.
While it is an arrangement that may not be suited to every workplace, there are benefits that come from allowing employees time to fulfil their creative passions.
Studies have shown that people who are involved in passion projects are less stressed, have more energy on the job and are better equipped to switch off when they stop working.
It’s something Kath Blackham discovered first-hand, after introducing a four-day working week in her digital creative agency, Versa.
By working 10-hour days, four days a week, employees can take a mid-week break — and according to Ms Blackham, it’s bolstered productivity and profitability.
“Ever since we gave our staff Wednesdays off, we’ve doubled our revenue, tripled our profits, slashed the amount of sick days taken and really improved every metric we measured,” she says.
It’s not quite as simple as it seems
While initially intended to be a short-term experiment to help prevent mental health issues in the workplace, the initiative has proven so successful that Ms Blackham can’t imagine her business ever doing away with it.
“If you think about it, many people take mental health days anyway, so we’ve just replaced that with a company-mandated one,” Ms Blackham says.
“That said, not everyone needs or wants to take the full day off, so we’ve also organised ‘crafternoons’ and an ‘entrepreneur club’ on Wednesdays in the office for those who want work on their passion project with others.”
And it seems to be working.
The initiative has helped produce the likes of the social enterprise Code Like a Girl, whose founder Ally Watson is a former Versa (then called Deepend) employee.
However, as Monash University’s Professor Herman Tse points out, giving people an extra day off isn’t quite as simple as it seems.
“We need to think more carefully about what having a four-day work week means: do we squeeze 38 hours into four days, or reduce the number of hours worked overall?” he asks.
“Most companies still focus on contractual hours to calculate superannuation, long service leave, annual leave etc — our whole system depends on this structure.”
It may not be for everyone
Ms Blackham admits that it would be unsustainable for her business to allow employees to move to a four-day roster if they only worked eight hours a day.
She says meaningful structural change needs to be led by governments.
“Since then, we’ve had an IT revolution, but we’re still wedded to the same way of working. I’m sure if the government said ‘it’s a four-day week’ from now on, people and companies would adjust.”
Any disruption to the standard five-day workweek, however, must be predicated on a climate of trust and transparency between employers and employees, says Professor Isabel Metz from the Melbourne Business School.
“Managers need to be comfortable that these hours are being used for that particular purpose (of passion) and not to do chores, or to work on your own little start-up [or] business when not explicitly stated,” she says.
Professor Metz adds that an entire day off may not be necessary for everyone — particularly those who don’t want to work longer hours on a daily basis.
“Having a break during the day for two hours to go for a walk may be enough for them,” she says.
“People also work differently: some may feel more creative at night, others in the morning, and some may prefer shorter days.”
‘Giving some leeway can go a long way’
For Mr Davies, having a “romance day” has proven both personally and professionally rewarding.
“There is a direct link between what I do as an urban planner, such as transforming an heritage site into something new, and the process of taking old bits of wood, covered in paint and cement, and making them beautiful again,” he says.
He has also managed to fulfil his dream of transforming an old sailboat into a roving, pop-up bar called ear/or, something he would have struggled to do without his employer’s support.
“If you’re an employer and want talented people, you have to be able to trust them, otherwise they will go somewhere else they can be trusted,” Mr Davies says.
“Normally, talented people want to do good work — you don’t have to chain them to a desk to do it — so giving some leeway can go a long way.”
Caroline Zielinski is a freelance journalist based in Melbourne. She writes on health, science, social affairs and issues related to women.