A four-day work week: The future of workplaces?

New DelhiWritten By: Priyanka Sharma PahwaUpdated: Apr 21, 2022, 12:15 AM IST
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Representative image Photograph:(Twitter)

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The idea of a four-day week sounds promising. But will it work for everyone?

Living from one weekend to the next has become the norm for most of us. We thank god it's Friday and dread a manic Monday. We cram all our hobbies, social events, chores, meal planning, workouts and getaways in a two-day window. The result? We feel exhausted and drained even before the week begins.

But what if your weekend was longer? What if you had more time to unwind, to spend with your family and plan all those getaways on your bucket list?

What if you were told that you could enjoy a three-day weekend? Deleting one working day and adding an extra holiday with no loss of pay, sounds like the perfect equation, doesn't it?

It's not a utopian concept anymore. It is becoming the norm in a lot of countries. 

Iceland, Sweden, Japan, Scotland are all experimenting with a shorter work week -- four days to be exact. In Spain, big companies are agreeing to a 32-hour week without affecting employees' salaries. 

In fact Iceland conducted the world's largest trial of a shorter working week from 2015 to 2019 and found that a majority of working professionals were happier and healthier.

Employers say it boosts productivity and employee well-being. In Japan where big companies take pride in driving an efficient workforce, there is a conscious effort to try and break away from a toxic, workaholic culture.

But is a shorter work week the best way to achieve that work-life balance that we all aspire for?

Many professionals feel that cramming the same amount of work in a shorter period of time may have an impact on their health in the long run. While a compressed work schedule has its benefits with claims of increased productivity, decreased overhead costs for companies and more "me time" for employees, there is a price to pay for this longer weekend. 

Why, you ask? Consider another mathematical equation. You will either be working for five eight-hour shifts a week or four 10-hour shifts in a week. Longer hours every week, month on month, year on year, will lead to more stress and fatigue over a period of time.

Speak to working professionals and they will tell you that the scheduling challenges, deadlines and tasks keep adding up and one ends up taking the work -- and the added stress -- back home.

While on paper, you are working less, you are still cramming more work in a shorter period of time.

So, does that mean the four-day workweek is a failure? Not really. It is simply a metaphor for flexible working model which will be the future of workplaces. The pandemic has taught us that rigid working schedules are not in the interest of employers or employees.

Just like diets, nutrition plans, workout and clothes are tailored for us, working models need to be customised. A recent survey conducted by LinkedIn in India found that 7 in 10 Indian women are either quitting their jobs or considering the same due to a lack of flexible working models.

So simply deleting a day from our work week will not help us work more efficiently or enjoy more on our days off.  

We need to look at the big picture and ask ourselves, is long-term fatigue worth a three-day weekend?