A 4 day work week is a new idea that started gaining traction in recent years, especially after the pandemic. It involves the reduction of total working hours by 1 working day a week, without any reduction in salary. The implementation of this varies from company to company, industry to industry. Some companies set a specific day off for all workers, while others provide a flexible working arrangement for employees to choose their own time off.
Why A 4 Day Work Week?
While the Employment Act in Singapore does not dictate a specific number of working days, it sets parameters for working hours that indirectly influence the overall work schedule. The increasing focus on mental health and work life balance encouraged the idea of a 4 day work week. Employees have started realising that their mental wellbeing is more important than their career. As a result, employers are now changing their policies to better suit employees, implementing work from home days and reducing working hours to a 4 day work week to improve job satisfaction and hopefully attract and retain more talent.
Some countries, notably the United States and New Zealand have already started trials, allowing companies to try out this working arrangement for half a year. The results have been extremely positive: 92% of the companies that took part decided to continue with the 4 day work week after the trial. In addition, 71% of employees reported lower levels of burnout over the 6 month trial period, and work life balance was said to have improved.
However, are 4 day work weeks really better for companies? In this article, we will list out the pros and cons of this flexible working arrangement, and weigh them to determine if more companies should start implementing it.
The Pros Of A 4 Day Work Week
Of course, the popularity of a 4 day work week is not unfounded. This flexible working arrangement offers many benefits to employees, employers, and even the environment. Let us dive into the major pros that you should consider when deciding whether this arrangement works for you.
The prospect of only having to work for four days, with a three day weekend, is a dream come true for any employee. This boosts employee engagement and job satisfaction, as it shows that their employer values them and cares for their mental health. Happier employees are also more likely to be engaged, loyal, and motivated. Hence, work performance as a whole will increase, allowing your business to grow along with it.
As employees will be in the office less, a 4 day work week can lead to cost savings for companies. Expenses related to utilities, office supplies, and other operational costs will have a notable reduction. In addition, as job satisfaction and employee retention improves, you will not need to interview, onboard, and train new employees, cutting costs in that area as well.
A decrease in working hours does not necessarily mean that productivity decreases. In fact, the opposite is true.. With a shorter work week and better work life balance, employees will be more motivated and hence avoid distractions, making the most of their limited working hours. This heightened focus can lead to improved productivity and quality output.
Talent Acquisition And Retention
Job seekers are now looking for jobs with flexible or hybrid work arrangements and more benefits as they prioritise work life balance and their mental health. Hence, companies that offer a 4 day work week will have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent. In addition, flexible work arrangements show that you care about your employees, increasing company loyalty.
Increased Creativity And Innovation
Employees like 4 day work weeks because they get a longer weekend, giving them more time to relax and rejuvenate. This break is important not only for the mental health of employees, but also to stimulate their creativity and innovation. Employees then come back to work refreshed and energised, ready to tackle any issues they may face. They may even be able to think out of the box or look at problems from other angles to resolve them.
Cons Of A 4 Day Work Week
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect. This flexible working arrangement does have its flaws, and they are definitely worth looking into. If implemented wrongly, 4 day work weeks may actually bring more harm than good to the company.
Results Differ Across Different Industries
A 4 day work week affects different industries differently, which might be the reason why flexible working arrangements are not enacted in the Employment Act. For customer-facing businesses like those in the F&B sector, adopting such a work arrangement may cause many issues.
Arranging shifts to ensure that the shop is never understaffed is extremely difficult, since everyone’s schedules are different. As such, you would definitely have to deal with days when there are simply not enough employees, resulting in longer waiting times and poor customer service. In these cases, businesses may potentially lose customers at the same time, worsening the situation further.
However, for businesses in the creative industries, a 4 day work week might be for the better. Having a longer weekend may help greatly in getting those creative juices flowing.
On the other hand, for businesses in the finance sector, a 4 day work week may have mixed results. The finance sector is notorious for having long working hours and poor work life balance, even working on weekends. Hence, implementing a 4 day work week may not actually bring about much change to the lives of employees. Some may simply continue working as per usual, which defeats the purpose of providing flexible work arrangements in the company.
Communication And Collaboration Challenges
If companies allowed workers to choose their days off, arranging for meetings or training programmes would be hard as everyone would have different schedules. This can become a problem when time-sensitive issues arise. Indeed, a flexible working arrangement will require a lot of planning, increased coordination and communication. While the situation may improve over time, it will definitely take a while to get used to. In the adjustment period, be prepared for projects to move slower, and decision-making to slow down.
Even though a shorter work week can enhance productivity for some employees, in certain circumstances, others may face a decrease in productivity. Employees may be understaffed on certain days and have a heavier workload, resulting in more stress and hence lower productivity. This then leads to fatigue and worse mental health, offsetting any benefits from the extra day off. In severe cases, job satisfaction may suffer greatly and employee turnover rates may increase.
Long Transition Period
As mentioned earlier, a 4 day work week makes it hard to coordinate schedules, especially for client-facing roles. Management will have to take time to plan and figure out the best way to arrange employees’ schedules. Productivity may decline during this transition period, as employees will need to get used to their new working arrangements.
Decrease In Profitability
With the long transition period and decreased productivity, it is no surprise that profitability will suffer as well. Workers may be more stressed due to the new work arrangement, resulting in a decline in their performance. Customers may also be put off by the long waiting times arising from the lack of coordination, and the business could lose potential sales and thus overall profitability.
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To Implement Or Not?
Of course, all of these pros and cons are subjective. They depend on the type of industry your business is in, as well as your company’s own circumstances. Certain types of businesses will certainly perform better with 4 day work weeks as compared to others. Companies in the creative industry will see better results than those in the F&B industry, while 9-to-5 workers will benefit more than shift workers.
In general, those that have already successfully implemented work from home days will definitely be better able to adapt to 4 day work weeks. Additionally, while it is not stipulated in the Employment Act, a statement was published by the Ministry of Manpower to encourage more employers to adopt flexible work arrangements on a permanent basis.
Ultimately, the foolproof way to tell if such flexible working arrangements can benefit your company is to try it out yourself. Trial this arrangement for a minimum of 3 months to truly see its pros and cons specific to your business, and you will be able to make a clear and well informed decision. Whether you decide to implement a 4 day work week or not, you should still look into methods to improve your employees’ wellbeing and your business will flourish along with them.