Care for a 4-day work week?

Shorter work times definitely sound good and come with benefits too, but there are checks and balances to consider by both employer and employee

Space
By
Sankar Pillai
November 21, 2019

At the risk of sounding cryptic, there was a time when six was the new seven. Later, five became the new six. Now, if employers globally take a stand, four might just become the new five. We of course, refer to the four-day work week.

In a recent experiment in August this year, Microsoft Japan undertook a four-day work week and the results were no less spectacular with a 40 per cent increase in productivity being reported from among its staff. If employers were cautious about four-day weeks the results are very, very tangible and they are all good. Or are they? We look at the pros and cons.

Positives

Positives of a 4 day work week
Positives of a 4 day work week

More me time: Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. It just means a whole lot of more me time for employees with their family and friends. Looking forward to longer weekends of course led to the increase in productivity at the Microsoft Japan offices and the same could hold true for other corporate addresses.

Reduction in stress: Let’s admit to one thing, there is a lot more stress at workplaces around the world than there used to be even a decade back, and it’s only going to get worse. People can either lament about it or do something about it. New Zealand based real estate firm Perpetual Guardian reduced the regular weekly work hours from 40 to 32 in 2018 and the results included a 7 per cent decrease in stress readings from a majority of their 240 employees. Something to think about?

Efficient time usage: It’s a given. If you have less time set aside for a task, survival instincts are bound to kick in at some point, resulting in time spent more efficiently at the workplace including multitasking and shorter trips to the water cooler.

Team building: Less time on hand means more hands on deck. This does not mean hiring more hands, it means working together more efficiently as a team. And ultimately, the advantage for any successful company is its vibrant and efficient workforce.

Saving electricity: Employers will love this one. Corporate offices are guilty of raising the carbon footprint thanks to the excessive use of power at their offices across the world. The reduction by a day in any given work week would go a long way to saving on electricity bills, and probably saving the world, one less work day at a time.

Negatives

Not all industries are viable: Industries such as scheduling or logistics require teams to be on call 24/7. In this regard it would be difficult for their employers to reduce the work week by a day.

Can be costly: Reducing the work week by a day may improve efficiency but the opposite is also true, which can be disastrous. Not only does the company have reduced hours in which to meet earlier targets, a workforce that lives for the long weekend can seem lethargic and not driven, leading to falling revenues in the long term.

The factor of unutilized labour: A study to report findings on the reduced work week in the Netherlands actually found more than 1.5 million willing to work extra hours but not being able to.

Customer satisfaction: Reduced work hours could do wonders for staff, but have you thought about the customer, are their needs being met despite reduced work hours? Efficient teams might have this in the bag, but then again there are many who might not be up to the task.

Ignorance about the concept: A 4 day work week does not mean reduced hours, it just means increasing the number of hours worked each day to balance out the number of working hours lost with the extra day for your weekend. And increasing the number of hours worked on the four working days can adversely affect productivity levels.

Contemplating introducing a 4-day week at your organisation? Our pointers should give you an idea of the pros and cons.

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