Is the dream of a four day work-week too good to be true?

17 Dec Is the dream of a four day work-week too good to be true?

A four- or a three-day work week is not just a compressed schedule where employees are expected to squeeze the same number of working hours into four days instead of five or six. Instead, it entails both a shortened work week as well as fewer hours for all full-time employees. 

In its most evolved form, employees get paid the same for lesser working hours. People working fewer hours while getting paid the same, could sound too good to be true.  

For some sectors, a 4- day work week may not work– like manufacturing, engineering and construction. Sectors like the knowledge economy for example, a flexi schedule will definely be possible. 

We have all seen another press release from HRs of large companies announcing the introduction of a 4-day week. We need to know, why they did it, and was it a success? 

Key case studies of companies who have implemented a 4-day work week include- Microsoft’s Japan office who reported a productivity boost of 40 percent and a 23 percent drop in electricity use. New Zealand based firm Perpetual Guardian found a 20% rise in productivity and employee stress levels dropped by 7%, and work/life balance increased by 24%. Shake Shack found that the initiative became a powerful program for retaining and hiring employees and they also reported it had improved their lifestyle and finances as well. UK-based MRL recruitment found that employee retention was 95%, productivity increased by 25% with a noticeable improvement in employees’ health and decreased short-term absences. Another UK-based firm, Radioactive PR showed positive results with a 70% increase in company turnover and 50% less sick-days. 

The pandemic is prompting more companies to experiment with a four-day week. Will interest outlast the pandemic?  

4-day workweek in response to the pandemic has started, with everyone from Stanford scholars, New Zealand’s prime minister to entrepreneurs suggesting in a chorus that this crisis is the perfect time for companies to experiment with a four-day workweek

Politically with the idea first floated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, other political leaders across the world joined the bandwagon, Finland’s prime minister has promoted the idea, the UK’s Labour Party has said they will make it a norm in the coming decade, a coalition of unions, activists and businesses in Ireland are pro-4-day work week, Russia’s PM Medvedev, too, has suggested that a 4-day week can help overcome both burnout and fatigue, German Labour Minister Hubertus Heil, has signalled he is open to moving away from a traditional five-day working week. 

Reduced hours could allow employers to share the pain of the economic contraction, reducing the need for downsizing, and a less filled office makes social distancing easier when employees physically return to work. With everyone juggling work and home, with a crippling work-life balance, giving employees space to rest and regroup could result in greater productivity.  

Buffer, Unilever, Google are companies that have recently announced the trail of a shorter work week post-pandemic.  

Benefits of a 4-day work week: 

  1. Work can fit into 4-days- Higher productivity, shorter meetings, lesser procrastination, more time to focus, lesser time wasted at the office and more time to rejuvenate and come back stronger for the next week. 
  2. Better work-life balance- More time to relax, spend time with friends and family, upskill and pursue hobbies to achieve personal milestones, lesser burnout syndrome and fatigue. 
  3. Better employee engagement and retention- More committed and happier employees, lower attrition rate and diversity in the workforce.
  4. Lower carbon footprint- Shortening work week means employees need not commute as much and large office buildings are in use for only four days a week.

With so many studies, trials and debate over a four-day or lesser work week, we truly believe this is the best time for companies to try it and make the best of it and develop best practices to implement it completely in the near future.  

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