Reports say a four-day work-week offers better "work-life balance", thereby increasing efficiency, productivity.
The government is in the process of finalising a new labour code, and it may offer organisations the flexibility of just four working days in a week, instead of the current norm of five or six. However, the working hours limit (48 hours) will remain the same, said Labour and Employment Secretary Apurva Chandra on Monday.
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"It (working days) could come down below five. If it is four, then you have to provide three paid holidays… so if it has to be a seven-day week, then it has to be divided into 4 or 5 or 6 working days,” Chandra said. On the 48-hour weekly working hours limit, he said, “it is sacrosanct”.
Similarly, many other countries and companies have flirted with the idea of a four-day week as backers say it offers a better "work-life balance", thereby increasing their efficiency and productivity.
Finland's new Prime Minister Sanna Marin, before taking over the country’s top post, had last year suggested the country should have a four-day work-week. The argument was once again simple and something we have often heard. According to Marin, the shorter work-week would allow people to spend more time with their families, adding this could be “the next step” in working life.
The discussion on the shorter work-week or a four-day work-week is decades old. In 1930, John Maynard Keynes, an English economist, during the Great recession, had predicted a 15-hour work-week "within a hundred years".
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand company, experimented with reducing the working hours from 40 to 32 for its entire strength of 240 employees. The research then revealed that overall work satisfaction increased by 5 percent while stress among the employees reduced by 7 percent. According to the report, at least 24 percent more employees said they were able to successfully balance their work and personal lives.
In 2019, Microsoft too tried to adapt to it by reducing the working week to four days in their Japan office. It reported a rise of 40 percent in the productivity of its employees, besides saving on printing and electricity consumption as well. Google, last year, gave its employees a Friday off, saying it was for "collective well-being".
A report published on Elle.com says Denmark, with the shortest working hours in the EU as workers put in over four hours less than the UK, has a 23.5 percent higher productivity.
In Germany, where full-time employees work 1.8 hours less a week, productivity is 14.6 per cent more than in the UK, it says.
Spain, for its four-day week plan, hopes to reduce the working hours limit to 32, unlike India, where a four-day week will also mean longer shifts, stretching up to 12 hours.
The concept of working four days a week is not new to India either. In 2017, an Indian company, Beroe Inc, experimented with the idea and reported a spike of 200 percent in its output as compared to when its employees worked for five days, reported MoneyControl.
Despite the massive support for a shorter working week, the challenges, too, are many. To start with, not every industry can be a part of it. Crunching five-day worth of work in four days may also be difficult for some, if not for all. Last, especially for a country like India, are employees and employers prepared for daily shifts as long as 12 hours?
(Edited by : Priyanka Rathi)