Not long ago, I read about the concept of a global three-day work week proposed by Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecom tycoon at a business conference in Paraguay. He is of the belief that productivity can be amplified with longer working hours in just three days. He suggests 11-hour shifts in a day, extending the retirement age to 75 and exuberates confidence in his proposition.
Amongst the multifarious comments about the 3 day work week model from around the globe, there were not so very enthused views from Indian HR pundits. Experts in India consider that it may not be practical in India at least for some industries and job profiles. It will have industrial, societal and legal ramifications. In a nutshell, the model sounds interesting, but in the Indian context implementing it seems to be a challenge considering the industrial framework and work process.
British billionaire Richard Branson wrote a blog post proclaiming that Slim’s proposal “could work” and that people should be encouraged to work “when, where and how they like, in order to get the best results possible”.
But this was the perspective of employers, leaders and experts. What about the employees? What is their take on this model? This thought was gyrating in my mind that once you know your people’s desire well, you will figure out when and how to introduce a model, which will encompass a change of this magnitude. This led me and my colleague on a research mission to put down the thoughts and belief of working professionals in the diverse fields about the three-day work week model and its implementation here in India.
We interviewed 75 corporate professionals working in various sectors in India to fathom their assessment about this new-fangled model. Based on the verdicts of the discussion with them, we designed a structured questionnaire to delve deeper in to the understanding and perception of employees about it.
Being a novel concept that was recently proposed, most of the employees had not heard about this model but were ready to contemplate about it being operationalized in India.
Their enthusiasm and interest in the shorter work week model was obvious but we wanted them to look at the larger picture and give this idea a deep thought. While in conversation with these personnel, the discussion also touched the reasons of the shift from 6 day to 5 day work week. Boosting productivity and morale among employees which emerged as the reasons for the shift back then could also hold true now with this model.
The employees are of the opinion that the model will help them strike a balance between their professional and personal life. They may have a fresher and less monotonous way to pursue their work and get more leisure time with added motivation to engage in activities of their interests apart from their professional commitments. “This model will facilitate more job opportunities for the unemployed in the Indian market” added a marketing executive.
To quote a CNN source, ‘the nation whose populace works the least hours on average per week is the Netherlands with 29. Close behind it are Denmark and Norway, both averaging 33 hours weekly. Despite the low weekly averages, these three countries’ citizens have an average yearly income approximately in the mid-$40,000 range. These nations also dominate the rest of the globe when it comes to employee friendly labor laws, with mandatory vacations for full- and part-time employees, maternity and paternity leaves, and flexible schedules. To put together what the respondents conceded to resulted in five major benefits’.
- Increased Employee Productivity,
- Proper Work-Life Balance,
- Lesser Health Problems and Absenteeism At Workplace,
- More Creativity And Innovation,
- Possibility of Extension of the Retirement Age.
A coin has two sides and hence probing into the potential disadvantages along with the advantages of this model can result in a holistic picture. Most of the employees could see no major flaws in the model. But the major disagreement came from the sales professionals who were of the opinion that this model might not be productive in the competitive reality. A sales executive said “In my job profile, performance depends on reach and conversion; more time in market means more business; this model might not be fruitful as last 10 days of a month contributes to 80 per cent of the sales volume”. In highly performance driven culture that most organizations have they will not be able to deliver results which in turn will impede their performance and incentives. Another argument came from an employee of the production department of a manufacturing company that this model might reduce work affiance. “As a certain process is expected to take a stipulated time and even with greater efficiency, we can increase productivity slightly but not exponentially to take care of 30-40 per cent loss of time,” he added.
Would you like three-day work week model to be implemented in your company?
We could feel an air of great optimism amongst the employees towards the model. A shorter work week with continuous three days work seems to be a more appealing pattern than alternate days at work to them. The employees rated it as the most welcomed idea but are vary of the management’s take on it. They are apprehensive about the management’s reaction to this model with regards to the probable cost. A respondent from the BFSI sector said, “HR costs may increase as multiple people would need to be deployed. TATs may increase for people dependent jobs. Hence, management may not willingly endorse this idea.”
Implementation and execution of this model requires creating a clear understanding, high ownership and involvement of all the stakeholders. We discovered that employees are highly enthusiastic about the three-day work week model and would love it to be implemented in their companies but again the managements’ view is indispensable. The implementation will be the critical in this context since businesses are not planned for 1 or 2 quarters or immediate term perspectives but business strategies and plans are conceptualized over medium and long term basis to shape the future. Human Resource is the primary strength to define and deliver success and unabated growth. Hence people should be at the core of all decisions too. Perhaps, it is too early to either accept or discard the proposal. So, the key question to ask Business Gurus & HR Pundits is how this concept can be practiced resulting in a win –win situation for all stakeholders.