COVID-19 has brought forward the future of work, with trends like remote work being introduced and look like they will be here to stay in some form even after the pandemic has passed.
Another proposed change to the traditional way of working is the 4-day work week, where the 5th work day (for most, this is Friday) is either a flexible work day or an off-day.
During the recent Fortitude Budget, Nominated Member of Parliament Mohamed Irshad even suggested to Parliament that 4-day work weeks with a flexible 5th day can be implemented in Singapore.
Whether (the next) Parliament will pass legislation on 4-day work weeks, individual companies can decide to experiment with 4-day work weeks on their own. Here are the pros and cons of doing so for both employees and companies.
Pro #1: Improved Productivity And More Efficient Use Of Time
In a study last year, Microsoft had implemented a 4-day work week in Japan. That experiment found that productivity increased by 40%.
With employees valuing the increased flexibility in their work, they would be able to have a better work-life balance. With a better work-life balance, this leads to happier, healthier and more focused employees.
Having 4-day work weeks also creates more efficiency in the workplace. Having less time available means that employees would have to try to cut down any time-wasting work processes they have. From limiting long meetings to stopping inefficient work habits, employees would be more efficient in getting work done.
Pro #2: Lower Costs For Companies And Employees
Office costs are a significant expense that every company would have. But, with a 4-day work week, there would be one less day of employees coming into the office, thus the company would save on electricity and utility costs from employees being in the workplace for that day.
Employees also would save money on their daily commute and work life. From saving money on expensive meals in the Central Business District to spending less on fuel or public transport, employees would also see cost savings.
Pro #3: Improved Satisfaction And Well-Being Of Staff
A big part of the introduction of a 4-day work week is the idea that work-life balance would improve. By having the flexibility of working-from-home, working for part of the day, or not working at all on the 5th day, employees can have the opportunity to focus on their own health and well-being.
From spending more time at home with family, running errands, dedicating time for personal development, or even just exercise more or sleep in, this flexibility can lead to happier, healthier employees.
Good morale can also have positive effects on staff retention, leading to less disruption from turnover.
Pro #4: Environmental Benefits
Change is in the air, literally, since working from home has actually positively impacted the environment.
In a British study, carbon dioxide emissions in some cities had fallen to as much as 60% during the crisis. This shows that the lower amount of traffic and workers on the streets caused by working from home had led to cleaner air in the streets. The amount of noise has improved too, as fewer cars and people on the streets lead to lesser noise pollution and quieter streets.
From fewer cars and buses polluting the air to lesser fuel use and noise pollution, the environment has been given a brief respite on the pollution that humans have inflicted on it before the virus hit.
Con #1: Clients Or Vendors Might Not Follow Your 4-Day Work Week
For some companies, a 4-day work week is not practical, such as those who deal in the financial markets, or for those who need their staff to be physically present, such as those in retail, healthcare, or essential services.
If you need to deal with these companies that remain on a 5-day work week, your company might miss out on opportunities due to your 4-day work week. Worse, you might case inconvenience or issues, such as slower response times or inability to hold meetings during the 5th day of the week.
Con #2: Employees May End Up Putting In Longer Hours Daily
A 4-day work week does not mean a reduction in workload. Employees may need to cram more hours into a single day at work, making each day tougher and longer, which could result in the opposite effect of faster burn out faster.
Also, because a 4-day work week might lead you to pack your long weekend schedule, you might end up needing to work late at night at home all the weekends.
Planning To Make 4-Day Work Weeks A Reality?
Although 4-day work weeks has many benefits, such as greater flexibility for employees, such a wide-ranging change might not be as easy to introduce, or without some trade-offs especially during the initial stages.
If you want to be one of the first few brave companies to do so, you will need to ensure your entire company is on board and are willing to work through the difficulties, as well as properly crafting a plan to ensure business services to your clients, customers and partners are not adversely affected.
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