Picture this, office cubicles as far as the eye can see, rows upon rows of employees who are in different departments and sections within an organisation. This may be an over-dramatisation of a bleak and meaningless workplace, but this is how the workplace is portrayed in popular media and culture. On top of this you have a 5-day work week from 9 to 5. Since as far back as I can remember, this was always the norm.
Recently, organisations have been testing the impact of having a 4-day work week. The practice has been placed in the centre of a hot debate between supporters and those who are against the move. The main idea is that by reducing workdays in a week to 4, it may allow employees to recover better and would hence increase productivity at the workplace. Some notable organisations that have adopted some form of the 4-day work week include Bolt, Panasonic, and Shopify.
From a conservative HR’s perspective, the application of such practices must be guided by solid research to back-up these bold claims of a more productive workplace. Else, it may be considered a fad or a temporary trend that may result in more losses than gains to an organisation and its employees overall. Although it may be ideal to work less hours for the same amount of pay, realistically however, would this be sufficient to allow an organisation to sustain itself? Less employees during certain periods of the week may result in accumulated losses in the long run from loss of potential sales or, causing delays from prolonging processes.
From a humanistic HR perspective however, the idea of a 4-day work week would allow employees to spend more time with their families, friends, engage in physical exercise, engage in up-skilling activities, or their personal hobbies. It could also create a more satisfying work environment given that both employees and the employer can benefit from an increase in downtime, it could possibly increase employee loyalty, increase work engagement, and overall productivity.
The 4-day work week has potential and it may benefit jobs that have high flexibility or require more creativity. However, I believe that it may be less advantageous for employees working in labour intensive industries such as construction, or farming as it requires more physical than mental effort. Another factor that could hinder its successful implementation is the wider societal and work culture in general. Change takes place slowly; this is especially true when it comes to work culture. There must be a realistic balance between time needed to complete your work and time needed for effective rest. More studies and trials are required before proper implementation of the 4-day work week is to be considered.