From reducing carbon footprint, to easing pandemic woes, how four-day working week is gaining ground
The five-day workweek is a solution to a century-old problem of increasing production on assembly lines and boosting consumer activity, but there hasn't been much improvement in labour productivity in India since 2016
Over 75 percent young Indian workers do not want to return to full-time office work post-pandemic preferring a remote or hybrid model instead, a report found, shortly after Indian companies like Swiggy and OYO announced that their employees will follow the four-day work week system for the month of May.
Swiggy's decision to implement a four-day work week was reportedly influenced by how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting thousands of Indians on a daily basis.
While many are dealing with medical emergencies or helping their near and dear ones, the second wave has taken a toll on the emotional and mental well-being of Indians as well, the company said, according to a LiveMint report.
What is the four-day work week?
The idea of a four-day work week is not new, and has been gaining popularity across the world.
The idea was part of the new labour codes that were formulated earlier this year. Though the implemenation of the rules was deferred from 1 April, the Labour Ministry was considering giving flexibility to companies to have four working days while retaining working hours at 48 hours a week, The Indian Express reported.
Thus, if implemented, a four-day work work system in India would reduce the number of working days in a week, but it may result in an increase in daily working hours to 12 hours a day.
English economist John Maynard Keynes had predicted during the Great Recession of the 1930s that a 15-hour work-week was going to become a "within a hundred years".
Which countries have four-day work week?
Spain recently agreed to try a four-day workweek for three years without cutting workers’ compensation. But unlike in India, where the Government agreed to retain working hours to 48 hours a week, the Spanish government has also decided to cut the working hours to 32 hours a week, The Guardian reported.
Target Publishing, a country based in UK's Essex county has adopted a four-day work week after doing so initially to compensate workers for cutting their salaries due the panemic. Unilever, which owns the Hindustan Unilever in India, offers four-day work week to its employees in New Zealand on an experimental basis while paying them the same amount it used to during five-day workweek routine.
In Japan, Microsoft and Toyota are reportedly also implementing four-day workweek.
How four-day working week can change employees' lives, efficiency
According to NPR, Microsoft Japan reportedly saw a 40% increase in efficiency of employees after it implemented the four-day workweek in Japan.
According to reports, market intelligence firm Beroe Inc implemented a four-day work week in 2017 and reported an output rise of 200 percent over the levels achieved during the previous five-day schedule. Annual attrition levels also fell significantly and employee sentiment improved.
Company CEO and president Vel Dhinagaravel said the convention-defying move also brought a benefit in terms of saving the cost of running an office space, MoneyControl reported.
For Elephant Ventures, a software and data engineering company in New York City, a four-day work week implemented from August 2020 aimed to help prevent employee burnout and maintain work-life balance during the pandemic, according to CNN.
After the first few weeks of inertia and adjustment, longer workdays improved efficiency since projects aren't dragged out over multiple days, founder Art Shectman said.
Why five-day work week is not working anymore?
The five-day workweek is a solution to a century-old problem of increasing production on assembly lines and boosting consumer activity, according to a Forbes report. The problems have changed now with a growing workforce of online workers.
But globally, there hasn't been significant improvement in employee productivity since the financial crash of 2008.
Though not necessarily due to long working hours, but in India, "labour productivity between 2016 and 2018 grew by just 3.7 per cent — a far cry from the annual growth of 14 per cent between 2004 and 2008", according to a report in The Indian Express.
Four-day work week benefits companies too
Moreover, studies found that a four-day work week will contribute in slashing the carbon emissions arising out of running an office space – electricity and other resources at office-commute by employees, etc.
A study quoted by The Guardian said a four-day week by 2025 would shrink the UK’s emissions by 127 metric tonnes, equivalent to taking the country’s entire private car fleet off the road. Another study found that global coronavirus-related restrictions had driven a record drop in global carbon emissions in 2020.
Work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has already helped companies across the world save money in huge electricty bills.
Going back to Microsoft Japan, company said, said that it "became more efficient in several areas, including lower electricity costs, which fell by 23 percent" after it implemented four-day workweek. Its workers also printed nearly 60 percent fewer pages, the company said.
But not all are in favour
The four-day work week system has strong opponents too with Jack Ma, the co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, frequently hailing China’s work culture — 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week — as vital for long-term success.
The UK’s Labour Party had lost the 2019 general election as it campaigned on the promise to trim the standard work week to 32 hours within a decade. Then there's the failed French 35-hour workweek.
Bosses also feel reluctant to reduce hours without cutting pay, fearing output will drop, an article in Bloomberg said.
“Employees perform a task more efficiently the more they’ve done it. I don’t believe there are really going to be productivity gains coming from shorter working time,” says Holger Schäfer, a labour market analyst at the German Economic Institute in Cologne.
Moreover, as Dhinagaravel pointed out, the system may not apply as easily to a BPO or a bank which requires availability for a set number of hours.
He added that such policies would stay in name only if organisational and managerial mindsets do not evolve.
Shectman mirrors the opinion, stating that leaders have to encourage open conversations in order to make the schedule function efficiently.
"If you are a top-down management organisation and used to issuing orders, it's not going to work. Employees definitely don't want their workplace dictating how their personal life should be organised," he said.
The employees, who were informed about the development in a town hall last week, were working in several countries including Guatemala, India and the Philippines
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