As the idea of a four-day work week continues to gain traction across India, new Qualtrics research reveals almost two-thirds of full-time employees in the country (62%) would prefer the flexibility to work whenever they want over one-fewer days at work (38%) as a shortened work week prompts concerns about longer hours, customer frustrations, and company performance.
Flexibility is also a bigger driver of retention (60%) than a four-day work week (51%).
For a third of employees (35%), flexibility means having control of the hours they want to work. One-in-five respondents say flexibility is choosing what days to work (22%), while others define it as having the ability to work from any location (20%), or being measured by performance instead of hours (14%).
Employees open to a 4-day work week, but concerns remain
While the majority of employees have a preference for flexibility if given the choice, 91% of respondents are open to supporting their employer implementing a four-day work week - predominantly citing improvements to their health and wellbeing as the reasons for doing so. The majority of respondents believe a four-day work week could improve work-life balance (86%) and mental wellbeing (84%), make them feel more loyal to their employer (85%), and be more productive (84%).
Despite the various four-day work week pilots delivering proven benefits - such as improvements to wellbeing and increases to productivity - many respondents believe there would be trade-offs. Three-quarters (77%) say they expect to work longer hours, while 64% say they think it will encourage people to slack off, alongside concerns regarding customer frustrations (63%) and a detrimental impact on company performance (62%).
Measuring performance and wellbeing in new work models
As employers navigate this shifting landscape, two key drivers of success for the new ways of working being implemented are prioritising health and wellbeing, and ensuring employees are enabled to succeed in both physical and remote environments.
This is in response to 79% of respondents revealing their job to be the main source of mental health challenges, with varying volumes of respondents saying working remotely has had a positive (34%) and negative (25%) impact on their mental health.
Employees in India say the most impactful changes employers in the region can introduce to improve mental health are an annual paid mental health week (55%) or day (47%), a four-day work week (54%), and access to mental health resources, such as on-site counselling (46%).
One potential solution to the challenges posed by new working models is having employee performance measured by results rather than hours and days worked, with 88% of respondents supportive of this approach.
In particular, respondents tout increased efficiency, focus, and recognition as the top reasons for doing so, while 26% expect to work fewer hours. An overwhelming majority of respondents also welcome their employer offering paid mental health days, with 95% saying they would be a good long-term solution to ensuring good mental health.
For organisations rethinking traditional ways of working, the Qualtrics findings reveal the impact of the changes being considered and implemented. Being proactive to understand how employees want to work - and the subsequent impact - will enable employers to make informed decisions ensuring the new ways of working adopted align with the varied needs of the entire workforce. This will help solve problems, such as current health and wellbeing challenges, at the root cause.
“Among the buzz surrounding new working models, employers must not lose sight of the fact that what employees really want and have come accustomed to is the flexibility to adjust their work schedules to fit the demands of their lives ,” said Lauren Huntington, Employee Experience Solution Strategist - India, Qualtrics.
“Increasingly, we’re seeing people make career decisions and find fulfilment in their jobs by working for organisations that truly understand and respond to their needs, and where they feel they belong. That’s why the most important part of any working model isn’t simply the hours or days worked - it’s being able to understand and meaningfully deliver what people want and expect to ensure everyone benefits from the transformations underway,” she added.
With organisations across the country continuing to refine ways of working after two years of working remotely, and the central government predicted to implement four new labour codes, the Qualtrics findings highlight the importance of understanding employee needs to successfully align the programmes being adopted with their needs and expectations.
The Qualtrics study was carried out in May 2022, and includes 1,277 respondents 18 years of age or older employed full- or part-time across a range of industries in India.