4-day workweek—is it really necessary?

Are there ways to achieve the same results and productivity as in a 4-day workweek without actually shortening the workweek?

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There are many ways in which time and energy are wasted at and during work. Many businesses need to simply examine their processes closely to identify the ones that are outdated and inefficient. Even inefficient use of technology may waste time and energy. There may be too many meetings happening that are taking way too long to conclude.

If these issues are addressed, businesses may not require shorter workweeks at all.

What does a shorter workweek achieve in the first place?

Many countries have been experimenting with a shorter workweek, including Britan, Canada, Australia, and the US. In fact, Britain has been on a serious four-day workweek trial for some time now.

A recent survey by a research firm, covering over 60 organisations and businesses and 2,900 employees across Britain, shows that a shorter workweek with no change in pay can result in employees being happier, healthier, more efficient, productive and loyal.

The survey revealed that not only had stress levels reduced in 39 per cent of the respondents, but even burnout levels had dipped in 71 per cent of the respondents.

People reported less anxiety, fatigue and sleeplessness. There was an overall improvement in mental and physical health. There was also a 57 per cent reduction in turnover.

The icing on the cake was that revenue broadly remained unchanged. In fact, it even rose by an average of 1.4 per cent!

When businesses looked at their revenues during the same period in previous years, they noticed that the earnings had actually gone up by 35 per cent due to reduced working hours.

So, what does this prove?

“Instead of focusing solely on reducing the number of workdays, companies should consider implementing flexible work arrangements. This can include options such as telecommuting, flexible scheduling, job sharing and compressed workweeks.”

Rajesh Jain, CHRO, Welspun

By spending less time at work, people are not really producing less output. In fact, their productivity is only improving. They are doing the same amount of work (if not more) in less time.

Rajesh Jain, CHRO, Welspun, feels that while it is true that some industries, such as manufacturing or healthcare, require continuous 24/7 operations and may necessitate a six- or seven-day workweek, the focus of this discussion is on the corporate sector. Many employees in corporate offices work a standard five-day week with set hours and schedules.

However, Jain points out that it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks and challenges of this approach. For instance, there may be concerns around maintaining quality of work, preventing employee burnout, and the impact on work-life balance.

“Instead of focusing solely on reducing the number of workdays, companies should consider implementing flexible work arrangements. This can include options such as telecommuting, flexible scheduling, job sharing and compressed workweeks. By offering employees more control over their schedules and work environments, companies can increase job satisfaction and productivity while also promoting work-life balance,” shares Jain.

Can work hours be reduced without shortening the workweek?

Why not? Giving a couple of days off over a year’s time, excluding weekends, can be a great way of reducing the work hours. Work hours can be reduced in a decentralised manner, team-wise too. One four-day week every month can also be tried. And why does it have to be a Friday off? Who is stopping any business from declaring the first Monday of every month off? It can give workers a long weekend almost at the start of every month. How about the first Friday as well as Monday off every month? That would be even better.

Sumal Abraham Varghese, director and CHRO, Transys Global, suggests that it’s important to focus on working efficiently and effectively during the hours that one does work.

“This can help ensure that the workday is spent in the most productive manner possible. By following these strategies, it’s possible to achieve the same level of productivity as a four-day workweek without reducing the number of workdays, while also maintaining a healthy work-life balance”

Sumal Abraham Varghese, director and CHRO, Transys Global

“This means, identifying areas where time is being wasted — such as unproductive meetings or unnecessary tasks — and eliminating or streamlining them. It also means finding ways to improve work-life balance, such as taking breaks and spending time with family and friends, which can lead to increased productivity on returning to work,” advises Varghese.

He feels that it is crucial to manage time effectively and prioritise tasks, ensuring that the most important and urgent tasks are tackled first. In Varghese’s words, “This can help ensure that the workday is spent in the most productive manner possible. By following these strategies, it’s possible to achieve the same level of productivity as a four-day workweek without reducing the number of workdays, while also maintaining a healthy work-life balance.”

This can definitely improve the mental and physical health of employees and result in less attrition. And these, as everybody knows, are key to improving productivity, and therefore, profits.

Jain suggests that the best approach will depend on the individual needs and characteristics of each company and industry. It’s important to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of different strategies. It is also essential to involve employees in the decision-making process, to ensure that any changes align with their needs and preferences.

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