Is a four-day workweek better for employers or employees?

    Some of the biggest companies around the world have a new trend sweeping: a four-day workweek. While the four-day work week may seem like it is out of reach for the notoriously overpriced Singapore, parliament has been rejecting the idea since 2020.

    But why is the concept of a shorter work week gaining traction and who is set to benefit the most? We search below.

    Which companies tested the four-day workweek?

    Several companies, including Microsoft Japan, US-based fast food company Shake Shack, New Zealand-based financial services company Perpetual Guardian, have experimented in different ways with the four-day workweek. Some companies have set similar working hours and give employees a day off for a total of 32 work hours per week, while others have a 40-hour work week, but complete it in four days.

    Companies that tested short work weeks experimented for a few months before deciding whether to implement the change permanently.

    The experiments yielded some surprising results. Despite the short week, the companies saw an improvement in employee engagement and productivity. Employers also saw more cost savings and less turnover. However, there were some negatives as well.

    For example, some employees felt more stressed and pressured to get work in less time. Others felt that they had to work for hours to complete the work the day they were taken. In addition, businesses with customers who expect on-demand customer service found difficulty in balancing customer service and extra days for employees.

    That being said, the experimentation that most companies have done and succeeded in, considers the reforms that permanently implement the four-day workweek.

    Also Read: Beyond the Crisis: Top 5 Trends in Work-Life in 2021

    Benefits for employees

    Some of the most notable benefits for employees were that they reported better work-life balance, reduced stress, and improved productivity. An experiment by a New Zealand company, Peripuel Guardian, also found that employee engagement increased by 20 percent, which is a good indicator that a 4-day work week boosted employee morale and participation.

    These results can be very useful for Singaporeans, who work very long hours and experience high levels of burnout and the highest rates of stress-related illnesses.

    This table shows the cost of stress-related illnesses as a% of a country's health expenditure.  The second largest is Singapore, with 18% of healthcare spending causing stress-related conditions

    Another important benefit that a four-day workweek provides is for older employees who have more work than younger counterparts. For instance, employees who are over 50 years of age will be required to take care of their children as well as their elderly parents.

    Extra days can give them the time needed to carry out important work such as doctor appointments, which are not always available on weekends.

    Benefits for serviceman

    One of the biggest concerns of the four-day work week is that productivity will fall due to the loss of the extra day. This may be particularly concerning for SMEs who are concerned that any time lost can result in significant losses for their company.

    However, the opposite happens. When Microsoft Japan tried a four-day work week for the summer, productivity actually increased by 40 percent. In New Zealand, the permanent parent also increased productivity by 20 percent after running the experiment and made the changes permanent.

    Also Read: Why Work is not done at Work

    More than that, a UK-study of companies implementing a four-day work week found that the benefits associated with a shorter work week saved them a combined GBP92 billion a year.

    Table on total absenteeism costs by company size

    There are other benefits as well, such as lower company costs and less waste. For example, Microsoft Japan experienced a 23 percent reduction in electricity costs. In addition, with low-stress employees, Singaporean employers may be able to save on sick leave, which currently costs them upwards of S $ 125 billion per year.

    Even this can help deal with the multi-billion dollar problem of muscle-ism, which presents itself when sick (but stressed out and dedicated) employees appear to work and Are less productive.

    Everyone wins if fewer weeks are implemented thoughtfully

    Based on the results of the latest short work week experiments, the employer may actually think more than most bosses. Improving productivity and employee morale and engagement is very important, at the very least, reducing costs associated with high employee turnover and sick leave.

    In the best case scenario, employers may find that the better work flow of their employees has also offset growing profits. Thus, while employees benefit from spending more time doing the things they love, reducing burnout and feeling more busy at work, employers may see substantial improvement in their bottom line.

    That said, it is important to note that a four-day work week will not benefit every company. Working with companies focused on customer service or with customers who do not follow the four-day work week rule may disappoint their customers.

    In addition, industrial, manufacturing, construction work and some finance work may not be able to implement a four-day work-week because their revenue is linked to external factors.

    Despite some of these drawbacks, these experiments can help pave the way for other ideas on improving work-life balance. For example, it is possible for different groups of employees to rotate the day to avoid a full-scale shutdown for an additional day.

    Another idea is to implement a four-day work week every other week to reduce pressure on employees who may feel stressed for a day less than they have to reach the deadline. However, these experiments have found that how companies deal with improving work-life balance is clear as to what is good for the goose.

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    Image Credit: Maarten Bzark at Unsplash

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