There has been a debate and a lot of mixed reactions from people all over the country regarding the new labour policy being put in shape by the Government of India. The Labour Ministry is now considering giving flexibility to companies to have four working days instead of five or six.
A four-day work week may seem like a revolutionary idea, but over the past century, we’ve gradually reduced the number of hours worked within a typical work week. In 1890, the United States government estimated that a full-time employee within a manufacturing plant worked an average of 100 hours a week. By the mid-20th century, manufacturing employees only worked 40 hours a week. Reducing our current work week to 28 hours isn’t nearly as revolutionary.
Or is it?
What is the proposal?
Companies now have the flexibility of working only 4 days in a week, however, the working hour limits of 48 hours in a week will remain “sacrosanct.” That means having longer working hours in a day even if the working days in the week are reduced, which will result in 12-hour work shifts.
The Labour Secretary has also gone to clarify that having a reduced number of working days does not mean a cut in paid holidays. Therefore, when the new rules will provide the flexibility of four working days, it would imply three paid holidays. Apart from the 4-day workweek the Labour Ministry is also looking in to make changes in the code on wages, industrial relations, occupational safety, health and working conditions and social security codes. They plan to implement all these codes in one go by the 1st of April, 2021.
What are the pros of a 4-day workweek?
Some businesses, like Perpetual Guardian from New Zealand, are already realising the benefits of a 4-day work. Not only did a 4-day work week increase employee satisfaction, company commitment and teamwork, but it also decreased stress levels.
Perpetual Garden went on to claim that employees experience less stress with a decrease of 45% to 38%.
Should we be surprised?
Not really. It isn’t anything new. Keeping in mind that that world’s most productive countries like Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands on average work 27 hours a week.
On the other hand, Japan, a nation notoriously known for overworked employees ranks as the 20th out of 35 countries for productivity.
A 4-day workweek leads to employees being happier and more committed. When the policy is put under use, employees are less likely to be stressed or take sick leave as they have plenty of time to rest and recover.
From 2015 to 2017, Sweden conducted a trial study into a shorter work week. Nurses at a care home worked only 6 hours for five days a week. Results were largely positive with nurses logging fewer sick hours, reporting better health and mental wellbeing and greater engagement as they arranged 85% more activities for patients in their care.
Woohoo! That sounds like good news, doesn’t it?
What are the cons of a 4-day workweek?
As compared to the benefits there are a few disadvantages as well. Some of the studies conducted like the one involving the Swedish Nurses, ultimately determined that that project wasn’t cost-effective. Implementing a four-day workweek can be difficult as it requires the right support, technology and workplace culture.
Many confused the concept of a 4-day workweek with compressed hours. Employees who are expected to still work 35 hours, but across 4 days will show decreased levels of productivity and it will also impact employees’ engagement, work-life balance and overall happiness. To achieve the desired effects a 4-day work week, it should consist of standard 7-hour workdays. If it goes beyond that, employees may get disgruntled and productivity levels may drop.
In a nutshell, a 4-day workweek is imminent provided we have the correct technology, and it exceeds the capabilities of the human employees. We’ll then need to make some crucial decisions regarding the future of work and how to best promote employees’ well-being.
A 4-day work week seems like a viable option that allows businesses to continue as usual but also provides its employees with a better work-life balance.