The idea of the four-day work week has been a recent implementation, reignited when lines between work and home life fizzled out, job insecurity and loads increased during the pandemic. The concept is that the formal work week is reduced to four days instead of five, with the same pay, benefits, and workload, allowing for a more personalised work structure.
The proposed benefits would span across many aspects. In addition to increased efficiency and productivity, there would also be a reduced carbon footprint, and a huge benefit to the personal lives of the employees. Multiple countries are introducing, trialling, or recommending the model, including Australia, Japan, the UK, UAE, Brazil, Denmark, Scotland, and more. Reports from analysing results inform enhancements to productivity and health.
The trial in the UK started out with around 61 companies and 3000 employees participating, starting to work one day less while retaining the same salary. It yielded success, with most of the firms wanting to continue the setup, observing less fatigue, a better work-life balance and job satisfaction, and consistent revenues. Implementation in Japan saw efficiency rise by 40%.
Certain companies, previously working six or seven-day weeks, ran into trouble finding a model that worked for everyone involved. In this case, constant communication with the employees and experimentation were carried out to figure out what settings worked best for everyone.
After work, home life in adulthood often entails the tasks of doing homely chores, taking care of and checking up on family and relatives, sorting out budgets, shopping for the next week or month, and more.
Nanditha, a 23-year-old who works as a graphic designer, says that despite her company currently following a five-day work week on paper, someone is always called in during the weekends. “You cannot really cut off from the office entirely and still need to keep checking in,”, she states.
Post-pandemic, many companies already brought in changes to make work hybrid, allowing the workforce to ease back into office life, and many did not revert back to a completely on-site work week. Modifications like this allowed young employees to balance out their work and personal lives.
Nanditha explains that her company does offer a plethora of amenities, like in-house counsellors, nap pods, a gym, etc., but practically, it is difficult for one to get off their screen for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. Besides that, getting off work early, even once in a while, is not looked at leniently, and there is a gossip culture surrounding the same. She claims a four-day work week would be great. “It would give me some extra time to cut off from the office and get back to my life, while allowing me to save up on monthly expenses and time used up during travel. Mostly, it would give my brain some extra time to be prepared for the next Monday.”.
She adds that it might not be suitable for all industries but would definitely help some.
Pearl, 28, works in marketing and says that she feels like she is at the office for half her life. She expresses that employee health and happiness are not the motto of her organisation, but having a good manager is a boon. She feels that a four-day structure might not be the most effective in her industry; however, there could be ways to work around it. “Employees could work a fixed set of weekly hours for four or five days, up to them. If the team can be split into two and alternate between Thursdays and Fridays, that could be a slowly effective transition too. That way, the organisation can stay open five days a week, and no one suffers—the clients nor the employees.”
It is not a flexibility that spans all industries, and within service, customer-based, or education, employees are required to be on the job for extended hours.
Mamtha, 26, says that the work culture is manageable as she works eight hours, six days a week. “As a professor, I do not think a four-day week structure would work, but it can be reduced to five days instead.” She cited the reason as not only the portion of lessons to be covered but also student interaction, guidance, and counselling.
The unanimous answer indicates a no, but there is openness to modifying the structure to better accommodate changes necessary for the better overall functioning of both organisations and employees. According to HP’s Work Relation Index, around 97% of Gen Z and Millennial knowledge workers in India are ready to even sacrifice a portion of their salary for a more fulfilling work relationship, so while the shift or reducing the work week might seem far away for India, there are many accomplishable changes, like promoting emotionally intelligent leadership and people-centricity, that could revolutionise the workplace.