In 2019, Microsoft Japan shifted to a 4-day work week and noticed a 40% increase in productivity. In 2020, Unilever New Zealand started a year-long experiment on whether a four-day work week should be extended to its 155,000 employees across the globe as well.
Now, India is considering the same. Kinda.
As the government finalizes the rules for the new labor codes, the Labor Ministry began talking about giving flexibility to companies to have four working days instead of five or six.
The new labor codes could provide companies with the flexibility of four working days in a week, even as the working hours limit of 48 hours for a week will remain “sacrosanct”, Labor and Employment Secretary Apurva Chandra said.
This implies that there would be longer working hours if the working days were reduced. For example, a 4-working-day week would have to meet the 48-hour weekly work hours, resulting in daily shifts of 12 hours, which will correspondingly reduce if there is a five-day or six-day working week. And the Internet is having mixed feelings about this.
The Labor Secretary stated that having a reduced number of working days does not mean a cut in paid holidays.
The rulemaking process is already underway and some think it could be completed within a week.
These changes will be a part of the new labor codes, whose draft rules are being formulated by the government. Employees should also get free medical check-ups through the Employees State Insurance Corporation, according to some reports.
Of course, a country has to do much more than enact laws. It has to enforce them.
In 2019, the Indian government released a report which painted a harrowing picture of the condition of workers in the country, with most earning less than half of the minimum accepted norms, 71% not having any written job contract, 54% not getting paid leave and over 57% in rural areas and nearly 80% in urban areas working much beyond the 48-hour week.
For example, the staff at Australian nail polish brand Kester Black all work a four-day week, with founder Anna Ross previously explaining that it’s important that employees have a say in any potential operational changes of this nature.
Kathryn Blackham, chief executive of Versa, once told the ABC that adopting a four-day work week at the digital agency has led to a 30-40% increase in revenue and a trebling of profits over a period of 12 months.
However, as Cheng noted, while the percent increase in companies adopting four-day weeks is large, the absolute number of companies going this way is still tiny. Plus, shortened workweeks remain impractical for more hands-on industries like construction and personal care, where hours-in usually correlates with productivity-out.