The tiny African nation of The Gambia has given its public sector workers an extra rest day in the form of weekly offs on Fridays
The Gambia has allowed its public sector employees to have a three-day weekend, starting Friday
"Hullo! Who writes on topics like these- No offs on Fridays? You cannot pitch against Friday offs." A colleague of mine snubbed me as soon as we got a breather after our morning who-is-doing-what meeting.
"But who is writing against it?" I, writing against extra rest days! It was out of question.
"You are writing against The Gambia news, right? Against the Friday offs that they have implemented."
It was my time to correct her, "C’mon, do I look like someone who will oppose an extra day off! Yes, I am writing about The Gambia news but I am not saying that Friday offs shouldn’t be implemented?"
Understandably, I got a pat on my back. "Then you MUST write on the topic. And make your point well. Emphasize on it, alright!"
For those who do not know what makes The Gambia a topic of discussion for HR news hunters, here is the update: The tiny African nation of The Gambia (as bbc.co.uk calls it) has given its public sector workers an extra rest day in the form of weekly offs on Fridays. The employees will still work for 40 hours a week, for which their daily work hours have been slightly increased. More interesting is the reason for which the Gambians have been given the luxury of an extra off day. President Jammeh has taken this measure to “allow Gambians to devote more time to prayers, social activities and agriculture”. Considering the ‘happy’ feeling that I have as I write this news, I can only imagine the way the Gambian workers would have welcomed it. The Gambia isn’t the first country to have experimented with the idea of a compressed work week. Back in 2009, Utah became the first US state to declare a four day work week for the state employees. The step turned out to be extremely successful as it reduced energy consumption in the state by 13 per cent. The Friday experiment in Utah lasted for three years, that is before the legislators realized that the state offices need to remain open for public for more days and thus the 4-10 work schedule got scrapped.
Is it good for employees?
Many studies have pointed out that early dismissal from office and increased day offs work wonders when it comes to employee motivation and engagement. Findings of a recent CareerBuilder survey further corroborate this fact. In this survey, 59 per cent of the total respondents said that flexible schedules are a key factor in job satisfaction and employee retention. When asked, "which one perk will make their workplace more satisfying", 40 per cent of the total respondents voted for Friday offs.
Considering that Friday offs add to work pressure on the four work days, what is it that really works for employees? A BBC report quoted Steven Shattuck, a Community Manager at Slingshot SEO, “Everything happens so fast in our industry, we think it's important to have Fridays to recharge. We call them research days. They give people a chance to stay up on things, maybe do some independent research or spend time with their families.” For the millennial workforce that believes on moving at a fast pace and having time to do its own things, this arrangement seems to work.
Does it work for companies?
In her book Make More Money by Making your Employees Happy, Dr Noelle Nelson gives the example of paid extra day offs given by Proctor & Gamble to its employees. Dr Nelson says, “It ate a little bit of their bottom line, a little bit from the stockholders, but oh my God what it bought them in employee loyalty and productivity.” (Forbes) It is a proven fact that extended off days help employees perform better and they also reduce the rate of attrition but one size doesn’t fit all; finding the right fit for an organization is the key.
Compressed work weeks work in organizations that have mostly young staff. Chances are that such an arrangement may prove to be a failure in companies where majority of the staff is above 35 years of age. People of this age group have family responsibilities to attend to and may not like the idea of working late every day. There is sufficient data to substantiate the fact that more holidays keep employees happy. However, it is not necessary to ‘enforce’ an extra rest day to make employees feel motivated. The best way is to understand their needs and to look into the options. For staff which may not be happy working 10 hours a day to avail an extra off, flexible work timings, work from home options, annual holidays can act as motivating agents. The key is to know what will work better for you.