5 days a week work may seem boring for many employees. After long hours of duty daily, getting only 2 days a week as holiday is not enough for many workers, who are doing laborious work. Also, the working hours per week seem to have exceeded what is required in this modern, fast-paced and digital world. That is why some countries are looking forward to either reducing the working hours a week or giving Friday or Monday a holiday along with the usual weekend.
The Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and work from home conditions is said to be the inspiration for exploring the possibility of a reduction in working hours. Some countries and private companies have explored the possibility of either a 4 working day week pattern, or reduction in working hours per day, or even giving a flexible approach deciding the duty time. All possibilities were tested by several private firms during the pandemic period when most of the workers opted to work from home. Currently, Germany has the least working hours a week at less than 30 hours a week.
Though several small firms had started reduced working hours or 4-day a week trials, the first major success was found in that of Iceland. Though the trials started before the pandemic, it took one and a half years to conclude finally. In July 2021, Iceland released its report on the trials. Iceland concluded that reducing working hours would result in an overwhelming success for the employees and the working class. Though the production did not increase as anticipated, sufficient cost can be reduced in terms of electricity bill, manpower, maintenance for offices, and transportation cost for employees.
The trial was not entirely on 4-day work but also covered 5-day work with reduced working hours and flexible timings of duty. In the case of 4-day work, Friday or Monday was declared a holiday for employees on a rotational basis. In all cases, work hours were reduced from 40 hours a week to 35-36 hours a week, though it is alleged that some 5-day work requiring longer duty time got decreased by no more than 7 mins a day or 35 mins a week in private sectors and 13 mins a day or 65 mins a week in the public sector. The salary of employees were not decreased. Some researchers have stated that the report was greatly overstated, and the working limits were not strictly followed in many cases.
The most significant positive idea from the Icelandic trials is employee satisfaction. Every employee is more satisfied with the current working conditions, with same pay. While the managers and officers are satisfied that there is no decrease in output from each employee, the employees have most benefited from the new working conditions. In 4-day work, a 3-day weekend also means greater time for travelling and rejuvenating the mind. Apart from Saturday and Sunday, the extra holiday on Monday or Friday worked the best for employees. Flexible duty timings is a significant respite to employees living far away, who have to get up too early. Now employees can attend any evening party, or wake up late, which was previously not possible in rigid working-hour conditions. It also gives the workers to take break from work, indulge in exercise, and relax.
Though we should never rely on one report, the report certainly shows promising results that can be carried forward in other countries. Japan and New Zealand have also started trials of 4-day week work, reduction in working hours, or flexible shifts on a large scale basis. India has also expressed its willingness for a 4-day work week, albeit at the expense of increasing working hours a day. As the world changed from 6 days a week work to 5 days at the turn of the millennium, the time has come that many companies and public sectors look forward to switching to 4 days a week work in the near future.
To know more about the details of findings on the report, click here.
Written by – Himadri Paul