How often have you witnessed your colleagues waiting and dreaming about the weekend even when the week has just begun? Stemmed out of the same thought, trials for a four-day work week started in the UK this year, and now a hundred companies have signed up for a permanent four-day working week for all employees without cutting any pay.
Around 2,600 people work for these 100 companies, and the four-Day Week Campaign hopes to bring a transformative change to the country. According to a report by The Guardian, supporters of four-day work argue that a four-day week would drive firms to improve their productivity and get the same job done in fewer hours. Early adopters of this policy have also found it a great way of attracting and retaining employees.
Apart from the UK, four-day work week trials are also going on in Iceland, Spain and the United States, along with New Zealand and Japan.
Under the new labour codes of India which are yet to be implemented, companies will be permitted to make their employees work for four days instead of five. However, the bigger question in India is will the new 4-day work week idea be actually beneficial to the employees and the companies?
What’s in it for the companies?
This question takes us back to where it all began! This week data from 33 participant organisations that employed 969 people in the US, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada who adopted a four-day work week in a pilot programme over a six-month period was released this week by the 4-Day Week Global, a New Zealand-based NGO.
According to the study, the shorter work week was resoundingly successful in almost every dimension. The data mentioned that for companies the revenue rose about 8 percent during the trial and grew 38 percent from the corresponding period a year ago, indicating healthy growth through the transition.
Daya Prakash founder of TalentOnLease told CNBC-TV18.com that some businesses are testing out four-day workweeks with reduced hours with the goal of cutting down employees' time spent at the office from the standard 40 to 32 hours per week.
“From a financial standpoint, a four-day workweek can minimise operational and other costs. A portion of variable overhead costs, such as electricity and energy use, are immediately eliminated by businesses. This proposed new method of working may assist in addressing one of the most significant challenges employers face: employee turnover. An improved work-life balance enabled by a four-day workweek not only improves employee productivity but also encourages them to remain with a company,” said Prakash
Meanwhile, Amrit Singh, Co-founder and CRO of healthcare startup Loop pointed out that larger trends like the Great Recession and pandemic-related workplace shifts like remote working, hybrid working have contributed to companies starting to think about four-day work weeks.
What’s in it for the employees?
The Good Part
Experts and research suggests that a four-day work week can lead to greater productivity and more work life balance. According to data by 4 Day Week Global, 67 percent of employees from the ones surveyed reported being less burned-out. Exercise time for them increased by roughly 23 minutes each week thanks to the extra day off, and sleep issues decreased by 8 percent.
“Employees could benefit from the four-day work week because they would have more time to take care of their personal lives, pursue hobbies and interests, and spend time with their families. It could also help them be more productive as they could focus more on their work during the four days they are in the office,” said Haresh Awatramani, CEO of HR Tech platform Beehive.
Meanwhile Prakash suggested that by knowing that they have an extra week-off, employees can handle personal responsibilities, such as looking after children or taking care of their own health, and do things that are important to them, like engaging in hobbies or volunteering in their community, when they have an extra day off each week or shorter workdays.
The Bad Part
It’s not all happy and Jolly with the idea of having a four-day work week, experts all over the world have raised issues of employee burnout increasing with tighter deadlines.
According to Prakash with a four-day work week there are chances that there will be a finite number of days when the employees can hold important meetings such as training sessions, brainstorming sessions, or other meetings but they would still still be expected to complete their work.
“You'll need to stay on top of client requests and demands depending on your product and business model. A four-day workweek in those circumstances may actually increase stress. If you shave a day off the workweek, your employees will have one fewer day to meet their deadlines, which could lead to increased workload and burnout,” he added.
According to Singh from Loop,the disadvantage could be that some companies and projects may need more face time and more hours of collaboration to crack difficult problems and
“A 4+3 structure could create more of a stop start rhythm,” added Singh.
Although the model is being experimented in the world Indian companies have not boarded the four-day work week trend wagon.
Can a four-day work week be a thing for India?
An employee working in an MNC in India, when asked about four-day work week work in India said that, “I work the time equivalent of six-days in a five-day work week,”. This very statement is synonymous to a lot of people in work culture in India and is relevant through social media memes. But logically according to experts the four-day work week in India might work for some and might not for some.
“While a four-day work week is feasible for corporate offices in industry sectors such as technology, banking, insurance, and e-commerce, it is not feasible for industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare. Twelve-hour shifts can be challenging in the manufacturing sector, where continuous activities are conducted in a cyclical manner. Consequently, a four-day work week will not be practical in this industry due to the regulations and the nature of the work,” said Prakash.
Also as per experts four-day work week can get a little tricky in implementation if companies get too demanding in less time.
“In India, it could work if companies are willing to be flexible and consider the needs of their employees. Furthermore, while some Unicorns (such as start-ups) may attempt to achieve this, it is unquestionably unrealistic for SMEs. For the time being, adjusting to a four-day workweek in India is tricky,” said Haresh Awatramani, CEO of HR Tech platform Beehive.
What are some other options that can be adapted at workplaces?
Anshuman Das, CEO and co-founder of Careernet suggests that a better and feasible model for India is the hybrid-work model.
“With the advent of a hybrid work mode, professionals now have the flexibility to work from the office or from home when they need to take care of their family commitments. The hybrid model enables professionals to have a positive work-life balance, as they can return to their jobs well-rested. This mode helps employees remain productive, enthusiastic, and engaged,” he said.
Prakash from TalentOnLease suggests that a 9/80 work schedule can also be adapted. This divides the difference between the conventional five-day workweek and a four-day one. All employees put in 9 days and 80 hours of work over the course of two weeks, which translates to a three-day weekend every other week. To achieve this, a combination of eight- and nine-hour days totaling 80 hours per couple of weeks is used.
Whatever work model it might be in the end it all comes down to having more productivity, getting more revenue and employee well-being. These are the few things that companies have been working on irrespective of the working models.
“Being in an experimental phase around the world, Indian companies will not be early adopters of a four-day work week but will wait and watch its impact on companies that participated in the global trial and other early adapters across the world. On the other hand, HR leaders in India will continue to work on improving employee health and wellness within the current 5+2 and 6+1 structures,” said Singh.