Decoding the ideal Indian workweek

What would be most suitable? Four days of work a week or five?

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A happy work atmosphere is essential for any company to ensure optimal output. To establish a happy work environment, the employees — the building blocks of any organisation — must be in a good place. This calls for a balance between their professional and personal lives.

Now to achieve that, an ideal workweek has to be deliberated upon by each company, and on a broader scale, each country. Productivity is directly correlated to an employee’s stress levels. Hence, working long hours for days on end may prove to be detrimental to their physical as well as mental health. The key task of identifying the ideal number of workdays per week can lead a company to not only enhance its productivity, but also increase its attractiveness to the top talent of the industry.

“India is not ready for a four-day workweek considering the kind of challenges, work style, and the thought process of the employers, other than the MNCs predominantly. Indian companies cannot afford to have so many days off”

Adil Malia, chief executive, The Firm

Countries, such as Japan and Iceland have recommended that companies permit their staff to opt for a four-day workweek. Iceland made the decision after the national government, in association with its capital, Reykjavik’s City Council, found that productivity levels rose or remained the same when working hours were cut short for a sample population of 2500 people working in the city.

Challenges for the Indian market are altogether different. Gauging the ideal Indian workweek, which has been badly affected by the pandemic, is a task best left to people working in the field.

Adil Malia, chief executive, The Firm, feels, “India is not ready for a four-day workweek considering the kind of challenges, work style, and the thought process of the employers, other than the MNCs predominantly. Indian companies cannot afford to have so many days off.”

The change in operations, brought on by the pandemic, is also highly significant when talking about work-life balance. The adoption of the hybrid model has shown us a new and better approach to develop work timings.

“The biological clock matters a lot. Some people are very engaged in the morning. It’s not about clocking in 9-6. It’s about figuring out how one can complete the task of the day, and when exactly one is most productive”

Bidisha Banerjee, global group vice president, learning culture and employer branding, Welspun Group

“In my opinion, 5 days is the best workweek because most companies are still not on a 5-day workweek. In the current situation, the best would be three days of working from office and two days of working from home. The days on which the employees work from home and office must be predetermined by their respective departments,” Malia suggests.

The hybrid model of work has resulted in a more output-oriented evaluation of employees by their companies. “This change must be welcomed,” says Malia.

“Compensation is an outcome of value. That is why, one has to evaluate the role one plays. How many hours one puts in has no relevance to the compensation. Output is not correlated with the number of hours put in. Unfortunately, Indian mindsets are still stuck in the Mohendojaro style of working, where number of hours decided the level of diligence and loyalty,” he explains.

The ‘work from anywhere’ concept has also introduced a better work-life balance for many employees, since it gives them a greater leverage over their work tasks.

Bidisha Banerjee, global group vice president, learning culture and employer branding, Welspun Group, explains that the hybrid, work-from- anywhere concept is here to stay. “I think it has made us understand our body clock and also appreciate the fact that work is not equivalent to the number of static hours of just being present,” she says. Emphasising on how one can pay better attention to the way one’s system operates, she further explains that individuals can themselves optimise their day by identifying the times during which they are the most productive.

“The biological clock matters a lot. Some people are very engaged in the morning. It’s not about clocking in 9-6. It’s about figuring out how one can complete the task of the day, and when exactly one is most productive. With ‘work-from-anywhere’, one can complete one’s work, spend time with family or watch a movie, all in the span of the12 hours that one is awake,” Banerjee explains.

She also believes that five days of work per week is ideal, but companies should consider a reduction in the number of daily meetings. She suggests that a ‘silent day’, where employees can work and reflect, can be a valuable incorporation to the operation of a company, given that it can reduce stress levels and give employees some time to reflect on their own output.

Jacob Jacob, GCHRO, Malabar Group, also agrees on adopting an output-centric rather than a time-bound approach to work. He feels that the changes brought in by the pandemic will lead to shedding of the conventional working mechanism and adoption of a more output-focused paradigm moving forward. “In India, with the current situation, I don’t think we need to be bound by conventional norms. It should be more about the ways of managing work in a hybrid environment today, where it is output that matters. As long as one is able to achieve one’s output on any of the other days, I think one should be given the flexibility to manage one’s time accordingly,” he says.

“In India, with the current situation, I don’t think we need to be bound by conventional norms. It should be more about the ways of managing work in a hybrid environment today, where it is output that matters”

Jacob Jacob, GCHRO, Malabar Group

“As long as work is being done, give the employees flexibility and freedom. Evaluate employees on the basis of their contribution and their performance. Given the way the pandemic pushed companies to move towards digital and work from home, I think, going forward, it has to be driven by employees’ contribution and potential,” Jacob continues.

He also feels that although remote operation has brought in a positive change, office work is also crucial for employees to maintain an even keel. “Employees need to check in to offices because the fabric of the Indian mentality requires those water-cooler conversations and discussions over coffee, etc,” he points out.

Leaders must respect employees’ personal time

Although remote operation coupled with work-from-office has brought about a positive change in the lives of many employees, it is the job of the leaders to make it better by respecting the personal time of their employees. The hybrid work model can only aid in better work-life balance for the employees if their leaders ensure that their time is valued. “Organisations and leaders who have shown the maturity to understand when and when not to disturb their employees, have certainly managed to add immense value and even positively change the way life will look like in the future.

Leadership, where the personal time of employees is not considered, will disengage the employees,” Adil Malia says.

In conclusion, even though the manner of operation has changed for most companies — quite dramatically for some — over the last year, it has only introduced a better and more productive path. For an Indian setting, most agree that working for five days a week is ideal and optimal. Not only does it ensure output for the company, but the two days off are sufficient for employees to manage their personal lives as well. However, with the hybrid work model, better work-life balance can be attained only if the employees are able to manage their time judiciously.

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