about 7 months ago
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As we get into the weekend mode, or for many who are enjoying a holiday today, its already weekend; they might appreciate this story much better.

Monday to Thursday work days. Friday, Saturday and Sunday paid holiday – three day-weekend or four-day working week. Potatoe or Potato – whichever way you say it, it’s the same.

Maybe if this idea had been mooted in 2019, before Covid, it might have sounded downright preposterous. But today, after having worked from home for almost a year now, it does not seem like a bad idea at all.

The last one-year has really made us all look anew at ourselves, our relationships, our priorities, our life and work balance especially. And for majority of us, this identity which we call as “me” comes only from the work we do. So, is that the real identity or have we lost it completely when it comes to work-life balance?

Working from home has not been easy where majority people say that they have been working so much more than before. Work timing has gone up but productivity has slipped and there is little time or energy left for personal life. The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) or fear of losing the job has made life miserable.  

Well, these thoughts plus the confidence now that same levels or higher levels of productivity can be achieved through lesser working hours, led to the exploration of a four-day week. Why not? Earlier, it was a holiday only on Sunday as it was “church-going” day. Then in the 1930s, it was Henry Ford who first introduced the concept of 5-day week. Many felt it was wrong but today, it’s the norm in most work places. Maybe it will be ditto for 4-day week. Today our work is automated to an extent where this is possible, without a drop in productivity.

Microsoft experimented with this in its Japan office in Nov’20. Its 2300-office staff got Friday also off for one whole month and the company reported a 40% jump in productivity in terms of sales per employee.

The Spanish government, last month, agreed to pilot a 32-hour work week over three years, without cutting workers’ pay. It has agreed to put 50 million euros toward the cost of the project for those companies that request to take part. 

In Jan’21, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan put forth the proposal for a four-day week in the Japanese Parliament, though with a loss in pay for the extra day off.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin have also encouraged companies to adopt a 4-day week.

The Labour Ministry of India is looking at the idea of giving flexibility to companies to have four working days instead of five or six, while keeping the 48-hours a week limit intact. This means, for four days, one will need to work 12-hour. Work more for four days and then have three days off.

Now the question is – will this happen in India? Not any time soon for sure. We as Indians, do not even respect the current 2-day weekend, expecting employees to work even on Sat-Sunday. How will we ever accept the idea of having three-days off? Our problem is not the law, even if the Labour ministry implements it. The problem is the mentality; somehow we think working long hours is ‘real’ work and that is more satisfying than having a good work-life balance.

We will look at this 4-day week more as a loss of work than see it as an opportunity to rethink our entire vision of what we perceive as prosperity. It will be very, very difficult for us to move away from an essentially work-rooted understanding of identity.  

What do you think? Four-day week is doable?

PS: there is no way that the BSE or NSE is going to even consider the option of 4-day week!

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