19 May 4-day, 5-day and 6-day work week compared.
4, 5 or 6 Day workweek?
It’s a slow day at the office. You are pretending to work but you spend time watching the new episode of Game of Thrones. You have already had 4 cups of coffee and taken three long restroom breaks. Slowly, the clock strikes 6 pm and you are delighted to go home. It’s a Friday after all. Before you know, the weekend ends in just a blink and you are back to the same old routine again. Sounds like your work life, doesn’t it?
Gone are the days when it was normal for employers to make their staff work for long hours without any fixed limit. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution gave rise to the huge demand for laborers and factory workers. Thanks to the American Labour Unit, who fought hard to implement 40-hour workweek that later became part of the Fair Labour Standards Act of 1938.
While the digital revolution has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, it has certainly changed the paradigm of work culture. With the internet, doing work from one country and connecting with employees from another country has become possible. But, the challenges of this era are more complex and different as compared to the last centuries.
Currently, the nature of work has changed from algorithmic tasks to jobs that require logical, problem-solving and out-of-the-box thinking. Creative jobs such as writing or advertising require you to get into a deep thinking zone. Once you get into a flow, the work quality improves and your focus helps you to finish the tasks within the deadline. According to a study conducted by Mckinsey, top executives are up to 500% more productive when they are in a state of flow.
Naturally, new problems can’t be solved with old tactics. Stress, low productivity, and inefficiency in the office are problems that need to be addressed with a fresh and innovative approach.
The leaders in modern work culture still rely on the methods adopted in the past. But for today’s work environment, it’s not about the quantity, but quality. Usually, this is how an employee averagely spends his/her day in the office-
A typical day for an employee
- Unnecessary administrative tasks
- Hour-long meetings, workshops, and discussions which are time-consuming and can actually be handled virtually as per everyone’s convenience
- Clearing spam folder, responding to emails that can be done remotely from the office
- Getting validations and permissions for tasks which can be handled on a grassroots level
- Traveling to remote areas for work when a video call would be sufficient
- Switching from one task to another, without any focus
- Checking smartphones for messages, calls, and updates on social media
- Redoing a specific job, even though it’s more than sufficient
A research done by Adobe states that most of the employees use email for over six hours per day. Employees are expected to attend meetings, be readily available and responsive even after work. Obviously, this distracts the employees and affects their productivity.
Despite various technological advancements, people are highly inefficient and stressed out because of work. Most of the people are of the opinion that they can get their work done in 4 hours every day if they are focused and uninterrupted by frivolous activities.
As it turns out, more and more people are debating whether there should be fewer workdays in a week for increased productivity. A lot of time is wasted in office when it can be used to enhance the work quality and there might be a solution for a more better workplace.
Companies are experimenting with the concept of 4 Day workweek. While some of them have already adopted it, others are hesitant to go ahead with this practice. Following are the pros and cons of this new work concept.
4 Day workweek
4 Day workweek is a fairly new concept in which an employee has to work for ten hours per day, instead of eight hours per day, i.e. 4 days a week . Time spent on lunch breaks and tea breaks is also covered in this work structure.
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand based financial company, adopted the 4 day workweek structure without reducing salaries. As it turns out, there was a lower stress level among employees and increased productivity.
In USA, some organizations are adopting this new structure. Big leagues such as KPMG, a global audit, tax and advisory firm offers a compressed workweek option to its employees. Certain startups such as Basecamp, a project management web toolmaker, which has 47 employees, institutes a 4-day workweek from May through August for employees who have been there for at least a year. Cherry on the top- they only have to work for 8 hours days during those summer months.
Increases Employee Motivation
Who wouldn’t love to have a three- day long weekend! The biggest advantage of this work structure is that employees would be highly motivated to work for ten hours. They would focus more on their work and be able to reduce the distractions that would affect their work quality.
Employees would push themselves harder to finish their goals and this would increase work efficiency.
Helps in saving fuel-cost and reduces pollution
Employees spend one-fourth of their income on fuel cost. Most of the employees commute to work via their own vehicles. This not only leads to excessive fuel consumption but also leads to environmental pollution.
Fewer work-days means less commutation to work and is therefore, more energy-efficient, which is the need of the hour.
Promotes work-life balance
Maintaining a good and healthy work-life balance is as crucial as it is difficult. In fact, most of the employees feel guilty if they do work for long hours. Having a life beyond their work is necessary for employee motivation.
Whether it’s gardening, karate classes, or just spending time with family, everyone needs a work-life balance. A 4-day work-structure would give employees more time to spend on their leisure.
It can be costly
There are some jobs which need more time. Some employees put in the same hours at work, the only difference is that they are paid overtime for it. While this may increase employee satisfaction, it’s an extra expense for a company which is already paying for a third day-off. This happened in the case of Sweden, where reducing the 40 hours per week to 30 hours proved to be costly.
Unsuitable for other industries
Manufacturing industries and businesses that run on production need a work structure that function daily. For such industries, a 4-Day workweek is an unsuitable and impractical concept.
Since it’s a fairly new concept, customers are still accustomed to the standard 5-day work structure. This may result in customer dissatisfaction as there would be no staff to attend to customer calls and emails on Fridays.
Now that you know all about the 4-day work structure, let’s take a look at the standard and most common 5-day work structure.
5-Day Work Structure
The Ford Motor Company was one of the first sign companies to adopt this work structure. On September 25, 1926, Henry Ford, the founder of the company changed the work policy of the company to 40-hour weeks with five working days and no change in wages.
It is cost-savvy and simple
Since the company is paying for 40 hours per week, it’s not bearing any additional expense. Also implementing 5 Days work week structure is less complicated.
5 Day Workweek has become a standard work policy adopted in major parts of the world. Thus, it won’t be difficult for a company to respond to customers calls and emails on Fridays.
Suitable for the majority of industries
A lot of service-based industries such as finance and marketing require more work hours. For operational roles, such as production lines where the output is clearly visible and efficiency is the key, companies assign set shift hours and a 5 day workweek, so that the productivity of the employees is at its peak and they get refreshed during the weekend.
Therefore, this structure works out well for most of the industries as work also gets done with sufficient days to relax.
Not enough life after work
Most of the employees spend their weekend getting groceries and stuff for the next week. They hardly spend time with their families or in any leisure activities. This affects employee motivation.
More burnout from work
A strenuous 40-hour workweek is the cause of stress and burnout in a majority of people. This affects employee work efficiency and leads to demotivated employees.
Wastage of time and resources
A major chunk of the work gets done in the first three days of the week. Employees have to come on Fridays just to mark their presence or for administrative work which can be done later. This leads to wastage of time, energy and also the company’s resources.
6 Days Work Week
Although more than half of the companies follow the 5 days work week policy, new businesses and start-ups work 6 days per week, sometimes even the whole week. Japanese employees are known for putting in long hours of work. Countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea have a high number of average work hours per year.
In India, though many companies follow 48 hours workweek ( 8 hours and 6 days per week), employees clocking more than 12 hours per day in up to a 7 days’ workweek is very common in the Indian IT sector.
Allows people to work more
According to Business Insider Executive Editor Joe Weisenthal, two days of weekend is too much for many people. Some people are so passionate about their jobs that they would work in their free time, anyway. As per Weisenthal, there are so many startup CEOs that felt anxious if they were disconnected for a longer time. Thus, a 6 days work week allows people to be busier and engaged.
Helps in smoother functioning for some industries
The nature of the job is the major factor that influences the working hours. In IT industries, people have to connect and continuously be in touch with their counterparts in other parts of the world. The difference in time zones demands long working hours. Therefore, a 6 day work week structure aids sectors such as IT to function smoothly.
Works in a slow economy
How do you measure the economic growth of a country? Of course, from the number of jobs available. When there is economic growth, people aspire to have better job conditions and work-life balance.
But when the economy is slow, there is a downfall in the hiring rate and the work pressure falls on the existing employees in the company. During those slow periods of economic growth, people tend to work longer hours and flexible work schedules may not function properly.
Tough times demand tough measures and 6-day work structure can be helpful in such times.
Minimum Work-life balance
One of the major disadvantages of the 6-day work week is that there is no or minimal work-life balance. Employees have no time to spend with their families when they work for longer hours. Also, it’s a headache for working parents to find a nanny or childcare beyond the normal working hours.
Negative effects on health
The biggest and gravest disadvantage of such work structure is the negative effects on the health of the employees. Since employees have less free time, they may abandon healthy habits that counteract the negative effects of a high-stress lifestyle.
Skipping workout, choosing to eat takeout instead of a home-cooked meal and sleeping for less than 7 hours are a few of the bad choices that an employee can make. Employees who work under such conditions have a high chance of depression, heart attack, and obesity.
But beyond the obvious negative impacts on health, working for longer hours can actually lead to poor cognitive function. In a study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, participants who worked for more than 40 hours per week, showed poor vocabulary and reduced reasoning ability than those who worked for 40 hours per week. The study suggested that prolonged work hours can have an adverse effect on the brain and result in brain damage or dementia.
Hampers the productivity
Contrary to the general assumption that working overtime means more productivity, longer working hours create hindrance in increasing productivity.
As per the study published by the Business Roundtable, after working 60 hours per week for eight weeks, the fall-off in productivity is equal to the participants that work 40 hours a week. What’s more, is that participants took time to recover from the burnout and reach the same productivity level that they started at.
Basically, workload depends on the nature of the industry, size of the organization and the economic conditions prevailing at that time. But, if the organizations focus on modifying the way they work instead of how much they work, it would not only result in higher employee retention rates but also better outcomes.
In the end, when it boils down to meeting employees’ expectations, nothing can beat a positive work environment. A huge chunk of money is spent on digital transformation and better technology at workplaces. But, if the same enthusiasm is shown by the organizations for creating a better workplace that bumpers the efficiency and productivity of employees, it can lead to long-term success.