Should Singapore mandate a four-day working week?

As more and more countries cut down on the working week, isn't it time we followed suit?

Should Singapore mandate a four-day working week?

Momentum is growing around the globe for a four-day working week, as the general population become attuned to the new hybrid lifestyle with a greater emphasis on physical and mental health.

The world has experience significant personal, physical and financial hardship over the past two and a half years and many people have re-examined what is important in their life, and while work is essential on many fronts, it has become obvious that having a happy and healthy life don’t necessarily equate to a 40-hour working week. Forbes magazine has already published a long list of companies in America and Canada who are undertaking four-day working week trials. It is hard not to see this becoming the norm within a decade or so.

“The fallout is more going to be about not doing it,” Donna McGeorge, productivity specialist, said.  “It will become an employer of choice factor before too long.  Organisations that are quick to move will attract people who are ready looking for a more modern and effective way of working.  From a negative perspective, people are going to have to communicate better than they ever have to ensure collaboration happens and work is delivered.”

Companies who have dismissed the idea need to re-evaluate where they are at. It is not going to go away.

“Businesses need to read what other companies are doing, by thinking about what the implications will be, by asking their people and their customers what they want or need,” McGeorge added. “There are plenty of case studies and stories right now ranging from countries legislating it, through to trials being done by companies like Microsoft in Japan.  I would recommend putting a working committee on it to do a feasibility study.”

How will a four-day working week be practical?

For companies to reduce an employee’s hours from 40 hours to 32 hours, based on an eight-hour day, it will lessen their output. Solutions could involve employing more people on a part-time basis or job sharing.  The whole environment will have to undergo some re-engineering like it has since the beginning of 2020.

“We should be measuring productivity the same whether we are working 40 hours or 32 or 50,” McGeorge said. “Questions that need to be asked are: are we hitting our goals? Are we getting done what we said we would? Are we meeting our key performance indicators? We should always be measuring output, not the clock on the wall.”

The role of HR

There is no doubt that human resources will play an integral role if the working week was to be reduced by one day. The management of workloads, shifts, job-sharing and potential more employees will involve sophisticated planning and execution.

“Human resources has a role to play from both a workforce planning perspective and an organisation design perspective,” McGeorge added.  “Any part human resources plays should be informed by strategy.  What is the organisations strategic plan? What is the work that needs to be done and what structure do we need and therefore the people to get the work done?

“Not every organisations, function’s, team’s or individual’s work will fit a compressed working week so human resources needs to be ready to have robust conversations around this.”

Then there is the issue of customer and client satisfaction. How will that be dealt with?

“Human resources will also need to challenge old paradigms,” McGeorge added. “Do our clients really need to contact us every day all day?  What would happen if we spread our workforce over give days but with four-day work weeks? Prior to 2020, plenty of organisations thought that it wouldn’t be possible for our workforce to work from home, and yet here we are!  What else is possible?”

The four-day working weeks will probably be introduced sooner than you expect. The question is what can you be doing now to prepare for the inevitable?

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