The world of work is seeing a great change. Phenomena such as the Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle have shown that many employees globally no longer view work as something that should be prioritised over other aspects of life.
The rise of digitalisation and remote working also means employees have now adjusted to working from home, allowing them to have more control in balancing their work and personal commitments.
Unfortunately, not every job can be done at home or remotely. There are still many jobs that require workers to be onsite such as those in the engineering, maritime and services sectors, just to name a few.
So, if work location remains a contentious solution to achieving work-life balance, what about reducing the work week from five days to four?
Here are some insights into the four-day work week by the Workipedia by MyCareersFuture team!
What is a four-day work week and do Singapore workers want it?
It’s not rocket science. A four-day work week, as the name suggests, is basically working for only four days of the week instead of the standard five, with no reduction in salary.
Depending on the company and the industry, everyone might work Monday through Thursday and have Fridays added as a weekend to Saturday and Sunday.
Alternative arrangements may include implementing a company-wide policy of a different third day off or allowing each employee to choose their extra day off.
Working lesser days while earning the same amount of money does sound like a good deal. And it’s not surprising that a survey conducted by Indeed found about 88%, or four out of five Singaporean employees, advocated the push for a four-day workweek with the same pay.
And before anyone deems Singapore workers as lazy, know this: Singaporeans may be known for a lot of things, but laziness certainly isn’t one of them.
In fact, they’re so hardworking that Singapore was ranked as the second most overworked city in a study of 40 global cities in 2019.
Also, if that’s not enough to convince you of how overworked Singapore workers are, maybe this will: In the same study, Singapore stood at number 32 on the list for work-life balance, putting the city at the bottom 10.
Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has stressed the importance of work-life balance to Singaporeans close to two decades ago in 2004 in his National Day Rally speech:
“…I think we need a better work-life balance. Apart from high expectations being the reason why young people don’t get married, another reason is they are simply too busy… No time to go out, socialise, make friends. I think we are working longer hours. …I am not sure why, but hours have become longer, the pace is more intense.”
Are there any countries on the four-day work week and how did they fare?
All four countries have reported their trials of a shorter work week as a success with no significant negative impact on productivity, while at the same time increasing the happiness and promoting better health of their workers.
Meanwhile, Japan renowned for its workaholic culture has surprised us by unveiling its annual economic policy guidelines that include new recommendations for companies to permit their staff to opt to work four days a week instead of the typical five.
The Japanese government’s initiative to promote a less-stressful work culture has been well-received by homegrown conglomerates including Panasonic and Fujitsu.
Management of these companies has cited improving productivity and boosting work-life balance as their main objectives of doing so.
Should Singapore jump on the four-day bandwagon too?
While a four-day work week may have worked well for some countries, it is still early days before the long-term effects could be observed.
At a glance, shortening the work week may bring about benefits and sounds viable in theory. However, implementing it on a national level is not quite a straightforward task. It will require a monumental shift away from the dominant work cultures, traditions and mindsets that we are used to.
Before you start arguing whether the four day work week is ideal or not for Singapore, Workipedia by MyCareersFuture has pulled together the pros and cons of the four-day work week for you to mull over. We’ve even added our remarks for each of them!
Pros of a four-day work week
1. More time for personal matters
It’s clear that the benefit of working only four days a week is more free time. With that, workers can utilise that extra day to rest, spend quality time with family or even go on short (three days and two nights) trips.
2. Increased efficiency and productivity
Working a shortened work week means employees can spend more time resting or indulging in self-care such as catching up on sleep or a spa session. Well-rested employees are more focused and productive at work.
Microsoft Japan tested a four-day work week and productivity jumped by 40% while significantly lowering operating costs such as paper and electricity consumption.
3. Saves money and less stress on commuting
Simple math. Working fewer days means less time having to commute to the workplace. This saves money spent on taking public transport and reduces petrol and parking expenditure for those who drive. Employees also experience lesser stress of peak-hour commuting.
4. Promotes mental wellbeing
Overworking takes a toll on mental health which may lead to problems with physical health caused by the higher stress levels. Hence, a three-day weekend can greatly support a healthier work style and helps maintain a work-life balance.
Cons of a four-day work week
1. It is not applicable to all sectors and companies
Like the working for home arrangement, not every sector or company can adapt to a four-day work system. Some sectors such as the service industry require manpower throughout the week to support operations.
2. Less time to fulfil work duties
Taking one day from the work week may be challenging for workers who need more time to deliver their work such as those working on complex projects. They’ll end up working overtime thus defeating the main objective of a four-day work week – more rest time.
3. High costs for businesses
A consequence of point number two. Possible delays in projects may bring a high negative outcome to businesses and in turn affect the economy and jobs market.
4. Negative impact on customer satisfaction
Many industries require their employees to be accessible 24/7. Of course, this model assumes shift planning that ensures constant workforce accessibility. Reducing the work week from five to four would mean one less day of service provided.
Some, companies may try to overcome this by maximising the four work days.
For example, the popular Japanese clothing store Uniqlo, increased the number of working hours per day to make up for the one less work day.
5. Inefficient workforce management
Changing to a four-day work week may require a complete overhaul of the work calendar and employment benefits which includes shifting or removing days for public holidays, reduction of vacation leave days and the required working hours per day.
However, the most challenging thing would be aligning the four-day work across all sectors. The amount of effort required to coordinate the logistics for everything to flow smoothly would be a nightmare for planners.
Take time off from work when you need it
Whether Singapore takes up the four-day work week arrangement or not, it’s good to take some time away from work when you’re feeling tired, stressed or unwell. Some “me-time” or spending quality time with your loved ones can help you to recharge and be at your best at work again.
If you’re not happy at work even after you’ve taken steps to improve the situation, perhaps it’s time to look for other opportunities. Speak to a career coach to get professional advice for the next stage of your career journey.
You can find some resources for your job search at Career GRIT too! Good luck!