The four-day work week is a flexible work arrangement that allows employees to work for four days instead of five, without reducing their pay or productivity. The four-day work week can have different formats, such as working for 32 hours over four days, or working for 40 hours over four compressed days. The four-day work week is gaining popularity around the world, as more countries and companies are experimenting with it or adopting it permanently.
The four-day work week has several benefits for both employees and employers, such as:
- Improving the work-life balance and well-being of employees, by giving them more time for rest, leisure, family, and personal interests.
- Enhancing the performance and productivity of employees, by reducing stress, fatigue, burnout, and absenteeism, and increasing motivation, engagement, and creativity.
- Saving costs and resources for employers, by reducing overheads, energy consumption, and carbon emissions, and improving retention, recruitment, and customer satisfaction.
- Contributing to the social and economic development of the society, by creating more jobs, reducing inequality, and supporting the environment, health, and education sectors.
Which countries have implemented or proposed the four-day work week?
According to a web search, several countries have implemented or proposed the four-day work week, either at the national, regional, or organizational level. Some of the examples are:
- Belgium: Belgium was the first EU member to make the four-day work week optional in 2022. Employees can choose to work for four days a week, with a proportional reduction in their salary, and retain their social security benefits.
- Scotland: Scotland announced a pilot project to test the four-day work week in the public sector, starting from the end of 2023. The project will assess the impact of the four-day work week on the well-being, productivity, and environmental benefits of the employees and the organizations.
- Spain: Spain launched a three-year trial of the four-day work week in 2023, with the government funding 50 million euros to support the participating companies. About 200 companies and 6,000 workers are expected to join the trial, which will reduce the working hours from 40 to 32 per week, without affecting the pay or the contracts.
- Japan: Japan introduced a policy to encourage companies to adopt a four-day work week in 2021, as part of its annual economic plan. The policy aims to address the issues of overwork, low birth rate, and aging population, by giving workers more flexibility and time for personal and family matters.
- Iceland: Iceland conducted two large-scale trials of the four-day work week, involving more than 2,500 workers from various sectors, between 2015 and 2019. The trials reduced the working hours from 40 to 35 or 36 per week, without cutting the pay or the services. The trials were successful, as they showed improvements in the work-life balance, well-being, and productivity of the workers, and led to the permanent adoption of the four-day work week by 86% of the Icelandic workforce.
- New Zealand: New Zealand experimented with the four-day work week in 2018, when a trust management company, Perpetual Guardian, allowed its 240 staff to work for four days a week, while paying them for five. The experiment was positive, as it resulted in higher job satisfaction, lower stress levels, better work quality, and more efficient teamwork. The company decided to make the four-day work week a permanent option for its employees.
- Ireland: Ireland launched a campaign to promote the four-day work week in 2020, led by a coalition of businesses, unions, environmental groups, and academics. The campaign aims to persuade the government and the employers to adopt the four-day work week as a norm, and to demonstrate its benefits for the economy, the society, and the environment.
Where does India stand on the four-day work week?
India does not have a national policy or a widespread practice of the four-day work week, but it has some signs of interest and potential for it. According to a web search, India has an average work week of 31.9 hours, which ranks 136 out of 187 countries with available data. However, this average may not reflect the reality of many Indian workers, who work for longer hours, especially in the informal sector, the gig economy, and the IT industry.
Some Indian companies and organizations have experimented with the four-day work week, such as the software company Zoho, the e-commerce platform Myntra, the digital marketing agency Webchutney, and the Kerala government. These experiments have shown positive outcomes, such as improved employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity, and reduced operational costs and carbon footprint.
However, there are also some challenges and barriers for the adoption of the four-day work week in India, such as:
- The lack of a legal framework and a social consensus to support the four-day work week, and the resistance from some employers and employees who prefer the traditional work culture and norms.
- The diversity and complexity of the Indian labor market, which has different sectors, regions, and segments, with varying levels of formalization, regulation, and protection.
- The trade-offs and risks involved in the four-day work week, such as the possible loss of income, benefits, and opportunities for some workers, and the potential increase in workload, stress, and inequality for others.
Therefore, India may need a more nuanced and context-specific approach to the four-day work week, which considers the needs and preferences of different stakeholders, and balances the costs and benefits of the change.