Why India should follow the 4-day work week

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Working longer doesn’t mean working better. A shorter work week will help improve efficiency and quality of life, says Sanjay Lakhotia, co-founder, Noble House Consulting.

Since the Industrial Revolution, one thing has remained constant — a belief that working longer and harder begets great achievement.

But if the benefits of new technologies are to be evenly spread around, employees can work fewer hours a week and employers can benefit from the increase in productivity and better attendance.

This can be simply explained by the fact that when there’s ‘less time to work, there’s less time to waste.’

Hence, when you have a compressed workweek, you’re likely to focus on meeting important deadlines.

There is a productivity challenge and especially for India.

Despite working 5 days and more than 50 hours a week, India has constantly faced productivity challenges.

According to a survey, India leads the charts as the ‘hardest working’ country, surprisingly, it also has 69 per cent full- time employees who will prefer to work 5 days a week even if they had an option to work for say 4 days at pay equivalent to 4 days as work does not seem to complete in the time available.

The 4 days work week experiment

Psychologist Dan Ariely, the author of The Upside of Irrationality, talks about how Google strongly believes a 4-day work week is a practical idea. He talks about how Google gives its engineers 20 per cent of their workweek, which amounts to one full workday, to do whatever they please.

At Cockroach Labs, as an HR manager, Grenawalt informed that she was “open-mouthed” when the founders first presented her with this idea.

But having seen it work in practice for almost two years at the company, she said it certainly challenged her to ‘think outside the box’ about new ways to motivate employees.

Researchers did a survey of approximately 3,000 workers around the world and found 45 per cent of these could do their jobs in less than 5 hours a day which implies that many jobs could be done easily in a 4-day work week and there would be no intrusion of work in the personal lives.

This Spring, a trial was conducted in New Zealand by Perpetual Guardian, a firm which manages trust, wills and estates.

The idea was to let the employees work 4 days a week while being paid for 5. It was observed, that this change actually enhanced the productivity amongst its 240 employees, who claimed to have been able to spend more time doing their personal chores.

The employees said, that this twist in their work-life motivated them to improve their productivity while at work.

Like, the meeting times were reduced to 30 minutes from 2 hours, number of breaks and break time were also cut down.

Similar experiments in various other countries too have tested the concept and reported the encouraging results including maintained work standard and quality along with increased teamwork, work engagement and decreased stress.

Why India needs to experiment too

Time has come for companies in India to participate in this experiment with the idea of a 4-day work week where people need to achieve the same targets in the reduced time.

This will force employees as well as the management teams to explore more efficient ways of working.

Some of the small and medium-sized organisations, especially the start-ups can start the revolution and create a template which can then challenge others to follow.

The companies need to have a look at the non-value adding activities and purge those.

How to make it a win-win

To make this success will require a significant culture shift in the organisation starting from the top.

The companies will also need to find a way to measure productivity before the experiment and after in real terms else it may not lead to any tangible results for the organisation.

A successful experiment will lead to higher productivity for the company and will provide the employees more time for personal chores and engagement.

In the long term, the company will gain due to better efficiency, higher accountability and happier employees.

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