Four-day work week: The five-day work week might be fading away

Source: This post is based on the article “The five-day work week might be fading away” published in The Hindu on 19th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth.

Relevance: About the four-day work week.

News: The idea of a four-day week against the usual 40-hour, five-day work week has been mooted for decades.

What are the findings of four-day work week studies?

Microsoft trial: The most recent and widespread adoption of a four-day work week was a trial run by Microsoft in Japan in 2019. The study witnessed a 40% increase in worker productivity, presumably due to increased job satisfaction and lower burnouts.

Apart from workers’ productivity, the company also witnessed higher efficiency in the form of lower office costs. It saw a massive 23% dip in electricity costs and a 60% fall in the number of pages printed in the office.

Other trials: Most trials of a four-day work week seem to increase or at least keep constant worker productivity. However, an increase in a worker’s productivity in a manufacturing firm with a decrease in work hours would not mean a similar increase in productivity for an employee in the service sectors such as education or health.

Note: In Iceland, around 86% of employees have the right to work on a four-day work week.

What are the benefits of a four-day work week?

1) Fewer working days will lead to lower commuting and hence have a positive impact on the environment, including a fall in electricity consumption in offices, 2) It can be an important tool to revive employment rates after the novel coronavirus pandemic, 3) It will increase work-life balance and a step toward gender equality and women’s career progression. This is because women often opt for smaller shifts and shorter work days for lower pay after they become mothers.

Read more: Gig Workers and their challenges – Explained, pointwise
What are the challenges associated with the four-day work week?

A four-day work week is not one that fits all. For instance, a) The service sector has challenges implementing a four-day work week, especially for small firms, b) The sales and marketing departments of firms may also face issues as there would be less time to chase leads, build customer relations and solve issues, c) Further, employees in firms that would not decrease work hours in a four-day work week would have to work 10 hours on working days, which can lead to increased stress and decreased satisfaction, d) It will also affect employees’ holiday entitlements.

What is the situation of a four-day work week in India?

Study: A private study in India found that among 1,113 employers it surveyed, 60% preferred a four-day work week and believed that it would positively affect employee productivity and well-being.

Government response: Recognising this, the Central government is set to roll out the new labour codes, which include rules for a flexible four-day work week. The new codes stipulate the requirement of a minimum of 48 hours per week; hence the employee will have to work for 12 hours on each working day.

Expected Output: This is not likely to increase productivity as the increased per day hours of work would work against employee motivation to increase output.

Suggestions: The draft code should only reduce the number of workdays, keeping the number of hours fixed.

The draft code should not forget the Parkinson’s law that says work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, and it should be a guiding principle in designing India’s new labour codes.

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