A Short Week, a Long Shot
The more I observe the workforce around me, the more I realize that we seem to have reached an era where stress is getting the better of all of us. It makes me wonder if there’s a solution at all. In such a scenario, the prospect of a four-day work week seems very attractive indeed.
I recall reading an article recently in the Sunday Review that talked about how parts of Europe decided to test the effects of this proposition on work life — the results were quite noteworthy. The article stated, “The benefits of a six-month schedule with three-day weekends are obvious. But there’s one surprising effect of the changed schedule: better work gets done in four days than in five.”
So how would this schedule fare in a country like ours? We have an increasingly young workforce and a dearth of jobs, which is paired with the need to sustain the nation’s economy — meaning that a four-day work week is bound to come with its share of pros and cons. As fascinating as this new paradigm sounds, I think it is important to understand the implications, both positive and negative, that emerged from the European study. Here’s my take on the advantages the scape presents:
When I think of what people need, being allowed to rest an extra day tops my list. It motivates them to work better, which ultimately leads to quality over quantity. It breaks the monotony of daily toil and gives way to a refreshing recharge, in turn leading to improved productivity.
Improves Health Conditions
I recently came across another study that discussed how working overtime can make one susceptible to both mental and physical distress. In fact, experiments with reduced working hours at select workplaces in Sweden helped reduce sickness while increasing productivity. Which simply means that once the source of stress is removed, the mind develops the capability to concentrate better on matters at hand. As I mentioned before, sufficient rest lets the body recover, leaving people with enough and more energy to get through a hectic week.
Spending more time outside of work invariably helps one connect with family and friends and stay up-to-date with each others’ lives. Even though many would chose to give their career the highest priority, I prefer a balance between both my professional and personal life. An improvement in interpersonal connections also positively impacts mental well-being and fosters a sense of belonging, ensuring you don’t lose touch of things that are important to you.
Helps the Environment
Sometimes, it isn’t just the health of the company’s people — industries significantly affect the environment as well. Fewer work hours then, naturally, help reduce the organization’s carbon footprint — companies participating in similar exercises reported reduced electricity bills, and saw a marked decrease in traffic around their premises. In fact, I saw a piece in the Huffpost that spoke about how a reduction in work hours by just 10 percent would result in a 15 percent reduction in a person’s carbon footprint. It then stands to reason that the more organizations that adopt these practices, the more benefits we’re likely to see in the long run. And as a part of this booming industry, I enjoy seeing the larger benefits take hold.
Although I recognize the advantages, I wonder why countries worldwide aren’t racing towards a three-day weekend. This is because it is clear to me that, while there are many positives, there’s a key downside that can’t be overlooked:
Regardless of the number of days, companies still need to meet their monthly targets. This could either mean that people must work their full 40 hours during a shortened workweek, or the organization would need to hire more people to ensure work gets done. What this means is that, whether for employee or employer, there is pressure to perform, no matter the constraints.
Therefore, I present to you a question: are we ready for such a drastic rescheduling? I believe that, as exciting as it may seem, it is a step that demands deep deliberation and consideration of the fact that a reduced workweek is not likely to be seen as a promising change by many companies. Further, the work culture in India is a highly competitive one — which means a lot is expected from those responsible. So my opinion is that revamping an established work hour schedule would be truly justifiable only after the fundamental issue of workload is tackled. What do you think? Would a four-day week be a good thing for the next generation, and would it improve productivity? I’d love to hear your views in the comments below.