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Four-day work weeks among ideas to improve work-life balance in SG

After the post COVID-19 lockdown, governments and businesses across the world are mulling back-to-office strategies. A four-day working week is among one of the ideas to boost domestic tourism and address persistent work life balance issues. Initially suggested by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, this idea is gaining traction in other countries including Singapore.

In this Pacific Prime Singapore article, we will take a look at the details of the four-day work week arrangement, including which organizations have implemented it and how it can be done.

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Singaporean parliament considering a four-day work week

Speaking during the debate on the Fortitude Budget, Nominated MP Mohamed Irshad pinpointed that the pandemic has forced Singaporeans to adapt to new working arrangements within a very short period of time. He remarked that Singapore should not return to its old ways of working and should move away from “the traditional five-day work week to a four-day work week with the option of working from home on the fifth day.”

He also cited Microsoft Japan as an example, which closed every Friday in an experiment called “Work-Life Choice Challenge” in August 2018. The company’s productivity increased by up to 40 percent. Not only did it benefit the company’s productivity, but it also helped preserve electricity and office resources. 

Other governments pushing for four-day work weeks

In the United Kingdom, cross-party MPs have signed a letter advocating for four-day work weeks, citing previous studies that showed the correlation between shortened working hours and increased productivity. The letter states that ‘four-day weeks would bring multiple benefits to society, the environment, our democracy, and our economy (through increased productivity)’.

The letter also explains further: ‘Three-quarters of UK workers already supported a four-day working week before the coronavirus pandemic hit and millions of workers have now had a taste of working remotely and on different hours. It’s in no one’s interests to return back to the pressure and stress that people were under before this pandemic.’ 

Meanwhile, an SHRM survey shows that 32 percent of U.S. employers offered four-day work weeks to all employees for all or part of the year.

How should a company implement four-day work weeks?

While we have covered the benefits of a four-day work week, every coin has two sides. If implemented without careful planning, four-day work weeks can also bring negative impacts to the company. For example, customers may have to wait longer for service. Business partners also won’t be able to speak to the employee they usually work with. In this section, we will walk you through the five crucial steps for putting four-day work weeks in place.

Step 1: Define four-day work weeks and set your goal

Different organizations adopt four-day work weeks differently. While some companies lop off one day of the week and pay hourly employees for a full 40 hours, others lop off a day but extend the other four days so that the total working time still equals 40 hours. 

It is important for business managers to clarify how you would like to execute it and what you hope to achieve. Instead of coming up with all the solutions by yourself, you should also listen to what your employees think, such as how they will work differently to get their jobs done in a four-day week. At the end of the day, it will be them who perform their daily duties hands on. Moreover, you can engage the services of consultants or academics to evaluate qualitative and quantitative measures of success if you want.

What you can do as a leader is to take a high-level view and determine how to measure the effectiveness of the effort, such as what specific metrics or KPIs to monitor.

Step 2: Consider the potential impacts

A four-day work week should not hamper the company’s productivity and customer service, otherwise it won’t work. You should have an open discussion with your staff and encourage them to consider how they can organise time off within teams while still keeping service standards and meeting business targets. You may also want to consider seasonal workflow differences to ensure that the policy can adjust appropriately.

Step 3: Consider policy, wage, and hour issues

Similar to other flexible work arrangements, the company should establish clear guidelines and parameters on how the program will work. For instance, who qualifies for the modified schedule and the steps for putting the schedule into place. HR professionals should address the potential issues with leave, time off, overtime, as well as part-time staff.

Furthermore, organizations should allow some flexibility in the policy and define under what circumstances should employees adjust their schedules to accommodate operational demands, peak business periods, or customer needs.

Step 4: Communication and training are indispensable

Managers should educate and train the broader workforce on how to adapt to the new four-day work week policy. Managers themselves should also familiarize themselves with how to manage performance in a flexible work environment. 

Step 5: Launch a pilot program

A four-day work week is a big policy shift for a company so it is crucial to test it out first, so that managers can have the opportunity to evaluate the effects on productivity and employees can see how they can adapt to the new policy and maintain their work performance.

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Contact Pacific Prime Singapore for more information

Four-days work weeks are just one of the flexible arrangements many companies start to adopt during the post-COVID-19 era. Working from home, for instance, aided by technology and video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet, is another kind of alternative working pattern. 

Amid the increasingly competitive job market, businesses have to provide more benefits and perks to attract and retain talent. If you are unsure about how to design a comprehensive employee benefits policy, why not engage the service of a professional insurance broker like Pacific Prime Singapore. With over 20 years of experience, Pacific Prime Singapore can walk you through your company’s insurance journey. From design and implementation, to managing and renewing your bespoke benefits solutions to suit your needs, contact our experts today for a free quote!

anthony

Content Creator at Pacific Prime Singapore
Anthony Chan is a content writer at Pacific Prime. He’s responsible for writing, translating, and editing articles, guides, infographics, leaflets, as well as other resources for Pacific Prime and Kwiksure.

When he’s not working, he’s usually on the hunt for great restaurants, playing badminton, and writing screenplays.