Does a 4-Day work week improve employee morale without affecting performance?

In certain sectors, it is difficult to implement a shorter work week. 

A 4 Day work week is not a new concept to discuss, at least not in the aftermath of a pandemic. In fact, why we are saying this is because it is not a novel subject since a shorter work week has been tried and tested in three countries. Multiple companies in different companies like Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Belgium and UK have run trials for a 4 Day working week and are currently undergoing a trial.

These trials are being studied and monitored by 4 Day Week Global, for a non profit organisation in collaboration with three institutions, Boston College, University College Dublin and Cambridge University. 

In some countries, trials are still underway and some have concluded. As far as the results which are available, the 4 Day trial seems to be successful. 

As per the results which are available with 4 Day Week Global, in which more than 900 employees have participated with more than 30 companies working in multiple sectors, the overall experience of the companies has been fairly good with the 4 Day work week. Companies have given an overall rating of 9 on the scale of 10 for 4 Day working week. 

In fact, the participating companies also say that they have seen no significant impact on company performance and productivity of employees in 4 Day working week. Rather some CEOs and Managing directors have gone on record to say that either the productivity of employees have either increased or remained unimpacted. Moreover, 67% companies say that they would want to continue with a 4 Day working week while 26% are planning to continue but have made no final decision. 

Impact on Mental and Physical health 

These trials were made with no increase in work time and no impact on pay of the employee. As per the results, it has seen a decrease of 32.42% and 67.58% work stress and burnout in employees respectively. On the other hand, an increase of 45.55% job satisfaction was noticed. 

Further, it reduced anxiety by 36% and negative emotions by 51%. On the other hand Physical health, mental health and positive emotions increased by 33%, 38% and 66% respectively. 

Moreover, employees experienced a decrease in fatigue of 41% and reduction in sleep problems by 37%. 

Impact on Work Life Balance

As expected with more off days, the work-life and work-family balance has improved significantly. As the number shows, work-family balance improved by 58% and work-life balance improved by 60%.  Employees have seen a significant reduction in work-family and family-work conflict significantly. 

Impact on Company Performance

Apart from looking at the wellbeing of employees, the study also studied the revenue metrics of the companies. The study says that during the six month trial period, the revenue of the company saw an increase of 8.14% and if we compare these six months to previous year, the revenue increased by 37.55%. So in totality, the 4 Day work week in fact showed that revenue increased in a 4 Day work week. 

If we would culminate all the data from the above study which saw trials in countries such as US, UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada and more, it shows that job satisfaction, productivity, work-life balance and employee wellbeing improved while the revenue had no impact rather it saw an uptick. So at the first glance, a 4 Day work week actually seems to be quite encouraging. All the above parameters such as employee wellbeing, work-life balance and satisfaction with the job improved with a shorter work week, which actually leads to happier employees. And there are multiple studies that happier employees lead to better productivity (Which improved in a 4 Day work week as shown in the study) and also company performance. 

Can it be implemented in India? 

Though it is very difficult to say whether Indian employers will implement a 4 Day workweek or not, with the new working models and the new labour codes on the verge of getting implemented, Indian companies might start thinking about it. Rather, the above results at glance are positive and encouraging. 

Why does it seem a challenge in India? A 4 Day work week might still get implemented in the services industry, but it is very challenging in a manufacturing set up which runs 24×7 round the clock and the retail sector as well. 

But the encouraging part is that the above study includes all sorts of businesses such as manufacturing, services sector businesses, retail and restaurant chains. 

Another big challenge in India is the mindset. The traditional sectors took time to move to a 5 day working week from a 6 day working week. So the mindset of employers and leaders needs a gradual change to adopt a 4 day working week in India. 

There is no doubt that 4 day working can be beneficial for employees and employers as the study shows , but there are certain challenges to implementing the same. Moreover, the study which took place, had companies with smaller employee headcount. So it is yet to be seen whether large scale companies can afford to have a 4 Day work week. Large companies like Unilever are running trials in New Zealand and Australia. We would need to wait and see what impact they have seen and whether they would implement the same permanently.   

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Kartikay Kashyap is a former journalist and a feature writer who carries more than 3 years of experience in covering HR and employer-employee relationship issues amongst the corporate in India for digital and print media. Currently, he is part of the content and marketing team at Advantage Club as a senior content writer.