There has recently been a lot of fuss about a 4-day working week. Several European countries are preparing the plan for a 4-day working week. The Gambia is one such country that has imposed a 4-day work week for civil services. Sweden is another such country that has imposed the plan to some extent. The calls for a better work-life experience have led to changes in the labor industry and work culture, like a 4-day work week. A lot of news related to a 4 day work week was created in India, and it is one of the signals to believe that a 4-day work week will soon be a reality. Labour ministries across the world are considering plans that are on their desks over the implementation of a 4-day work week.
The real question is, Is a 4-day work week even feasible? Well, the answer to this is yes. Countries or departments implementing 4-day work weeks have recorded higher productivity due to better mental peace and energy among the employees. Also, a 4-day work week could be an opportunity for employers to employ more and more talent leading to a reduction in the count of jobless people.
Talking in the Indian context, let’s understand India’s labor ministry’s proposal since it is one of the world’s largest markets. The labor ministry has prescribed 48 working hours in a week under the new regime. However, a 4-day work week won’t mean any cut in regular holidays. This means better flexibility and work culture. Mathematically, an employee will have to dedicate 12 hours to the job to meet the target of 48 hours in a week. The employers will have to provide three paid holidays to the employees mandatorily.
The real problem that arises with the existing proposal is the daily working hours in case of a 4-day work week. Currently, employees work for 8-9 hours in case of a 5-day work week or a 6-day work week. That roughly translates into 45 hours of work in a week at max. Increasing it by 3 to 8 hours could be something that may add to the headache or stress of the employees. In such a case, the sole aim of proposing a 4-day workweek could be hampered as employees would be left drained after working for 12 long hours. A healthy individual needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep on average. Adding 12 working hours to it leaves just 3 to 4 hours in a day. 4 hours are too less to do the rest of the household work.
If we compare this to the plan put forward by the countries in the West, the demanded work hours under a 4-day work week plan are just 28 to 30. That translates into just 7 to 8 working hours daily. If we talk about the plan by the US labour ministry, an employee would have to dedicate 28 hours to their work over four days. Plus a three-day weekend. This is on top of paid leaves every month. Currently, employees in the US work for 35 to 40 hours in a week under a 5-day work week regime. Studies have shown that the reduction in work hours won’t lead to a radical change in productivity as the productivity declines as the weekend approaches.
The introduction of a 4-day work week might lead in creating a threshold between working days and non-working days. This might lead to better enthusiasm and energy from employees and productivity may skyrocket.
Some factors that stand in the favour of a 4-day work week include:
- Increased Productivity
- Reduced Work Stress
- Better Work-Life Balance
- A decrease in Gender Pay Gap
- Happier Work Environment
Talking specifically about the pay gap due to gender, it has been a big problem in countries across the world. Women struggle to get due credit and the remuneration they deserve for their work. A 4-day work week promises to promote equality in work space and gender pay neutrality.
It might sound like a third world problem but women struggle to find the job they deserve or often miss on opportunities due to added responsibilities of family and children. A 4-day work week would mean enough time for women to take care of families without compromising with their ambitions and eventually it would lead to a society comprising independent and self-dependent women.
Customer Satisfaction: This is one problem that could be faced on a large scale if a 4-day workweek is implemented. Specially for service based businesses, a 3-day weekend would mean no or less availability of support of service from the employer or the employees on the last 3 days of the week. This may lead to huge dissatisfaction in essential services. However, this problem can be easily addressed if rotation policy is implemented where some employees can work Monday to Friday and some of them on Thursday to Sunday.
Increased Working Hours: This problem has already been discussed briefly. While the US proposes a 28 to 32 hours work week, there are some countries where the proposal of reduced working days doesn’t mean reduced working hours. In such a case, the productivity might actually fall and the move to reduce work pressure might actually backfire and lead to added stress and fatigue.
What are your thoughts or suggestions for a 4-day work week?