This is Hot Mic and I’m Nidhi Razdan.
How would you feel if your company decided to give you a nap during office hours and cut your workweek from five to four days? In a post-pandemic world, many companies are rediscovering the workplace and believe it or not, these are now real incentives to retain talent. Many of us have been working from home in recent years and for many people it has been a discovery to see what work-life balance looks like. Flexible working hours gave us more time to be with our family without the stress of physically commuting to an office building. That’s why, as a post-Covid world reopens, many organizations are doing what they can to make employees’ lives more comfortable and more in line with the work-life balance they’re used to. For example, a start-up in Bengaluru recently announced that half an hour a day will be reserved for power naps for its employees at the office. The company is called Wakefit Solutions and they took to their official Twitter account to post two images with the right to snooze. Their co-founder recently sent an internal email to employees announcing that they can now take a nap between 2 and 2:30 p.m. every day. And then there’s the concept of a four-day working week, which is now gaining momentum in many countries. Importantly, it would be without any pay cuts.
So will a four-day work week become the new normal? Well, a number of companies around the world have maintained this for a year or more. And the Japanese government has even recommended it as a national policy. It’s actually not a new idea, but seems to have been given more consideration after the pandemic. During the second wave of Covid last year, there were even some Indian companies and start-ups that also temporarily introduced a four-day work week for their employees. These companies were, for example, Swiggy, advertising agencies such as DDB Mudra and MullenLowe Lintas and OYO. There is a Bangalore-based fintech start-up that has come up with a dramatic option to increase their talent pool, which is by holding a three-day workweek. The proposal is an effort to bring in more technology talent amid a shortage of Indian companies. Fintech company Slice offers new employees a three-day week with a salary of 80% of the prevailing market rate. Now, those who support this move have cited studies that say working four days a week instead of five actually increases productivity. Last year, researchers in Iceland found that a four-day work week, with no pay cuts, improved workers’ well-being and productivity. For four years, researchers tracked 2,500 workers who reduced their workweek to about 35-36 hours.
Now, according to a study published by Autonomy, a forward-thinking think tank based in the UK, the researchers found that worker well-being increased dramatically across a range of indicators – from stress and burnout to health and work-life balance. So, which countries do it? Well, Belgium has introduced a four-day working week for those who want it. However, employees will not work less. If they want to, they have to cut their working hours into fewer days. So they get the flexibility to decide whether they want to do four days a week or five days a week. Scotland has been experimenting with a four-day working week since January this year. In fact, it was a key campaign promise from Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s parliamentary election campaign last year. Participating companies and organizations do one working day less, again without loss of wages. Ireland is also doing a similar test, while Spain launched a three-year experiment of 32 hours a week as part of the country’s economic recovery from Covid. Microsoft attempted a four-day work week in Japan in 2019, resulting in a 40% increase in productivity. So this was before Covid hit. And since then, many other organizations have followed suit. For example, Unilever, which announced last November that it would be testing such a scheme in New Zealand and that they would repeat it if successful after some time. According to new research from England’s Henley Business School, more than two-thirds of companies believe that offering a four-day workweek will be essential to the success of future businesses. The researchers had already conducted one study into this in 2019, but came back to it again after the Covid crisis in November 2021. They surveyed more than 2,000 workers and 500 leaders in the UK and concluded that the four-day workweek has a positive effect on well-being. 78% of employers said employees were less stressed at work, which was a 5% increase from 2019 and a clear majority 70% agreed that shortening the workweek improves their quality of life, while more than two-thirds thought their mental health had improved with greater work flexibility. So do you want to work four days a week? The choice can be yours. But as someone who speaks from experience, I can tell you it’s a great way to get started.