The concept of a 4 day work week has long been a subject of discussion in the west especially the United States. The experiment was carried out on most state employees in Utah, United States during 2008 and there was a marked improvement in the productivity of employees, reduced overhead costs and reduction in gasoline consumption, when the budgets were tight and resources in the US were dwindling. The researchers found that 79% of the employees reported a positive experience with 4 days a week/ 10 hrs a day routine and 63% of the employees showed signs of increased productivity.
However the most important question is will the 4 day work-week concept work in India? There are lot factors that need to be considered before this concept can be implemented here:
Laws of the land:
In India, according to the Factories Act and the Shop and Establishments Act of various states, the official working hours is 48 hours a week, beyond which the worker is eligible for twice the amount of wages for every hour that he works.
Traditionally Hard workers:
The 4 day work- week worked wonders for the state government employees in Utah but the same might not work out in India. The exhibit from the economist shows the working hours in many countries, which is mainly dependent on the work culture and merely aping the west might not be the best idea. Though India is not mentioned here, Indians are traditionally hard workers, be it an unskilled worker at a construction site or a middle level manager at a small organization. According to Wikipedia, an average worker in India works for over 50 hours per week. Popular data also suggests that business leaders in emerging economies tend to work the longest hours with India and Argentina at the top of the league table, both at 57 hours a week, followed by Armenia, Australia and Botswana (all 56 hours a week). Italian business leaders work the least number of hours (47) a week in the world, followed predominantly by certain European countries. Now with such increased number of hours it is impossible for a 4 day work week as it compels managers to work for at least 14 hours per day with little time for leisure or family.
India’s booming service sector:
The concept of a 4 day work week is more suited for process oriented organizations and not for the service oriented ones. In India, where the service sector contributes more that 57% to the GDP, this concept wouldn’t apply at all, as there is a large customer service component to the business and it takes a bit of ingenuity and some scheduling prowess to adjust to this type of schedule. Consider the case of IT Sector or the BPO, which are already working long hours to serve their clients in Northern America and Europe; this new concept would put undue pressure on them to stretch too far on weekdays. There is this threat of work “leaking” into the scheduled off day, such as answering emails or phone calls at home.
There is a problem implementing this concept as there might be confusion whether there should be a mid week break or a three day weekend. This might force the management to give the employees the choice, and introduce the concept of employee rotation as well. However this might cause stress to the co-workers to pick up the slack at the office on days a fellow employee is off.
6 days a week still a norm in many organizations:
Many organizations are yet to implement the 5 days work week concept in India especially nationalized banks, most of which are still working 6 days a week. The officers and managers need to work late in the night thanks to the increasing workload of the Core Banking System Platform and the drastically reducing employee strength. The banking sector also faces problems due to the ageing workforce who would definitely not be able to cope with the 4 day work week concept as it would demand high amount of energy levels to serve the customers for long hours per day. It would be wise for organizations like banks to move to the 5 day work week first, for which there is already a huge resistance from the bureaucrats of the Finance Ministry and representatives of Indian trade and industry.
The above mentioned factors clearly suggest that the 4 day work week will not work in India and there is an urgent need of uniform implementation of a five day work throughout the country before carrying on with further experiments.
by Sunil. S. Kamath
XLRI HRM 2012-14