A five-day week is now common among the organized working class in offices. However, with greater focus on a work-life balance, voices for a four-day workweek are increasingly been heard.
Last month, Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo and owner of other leading brands offered a four-day workweek to about a fifth of its workforce on trial basis. About 10,000 full-time employees at Uniqlo’s Japan locations get the option of a three-day weekend in exchange for 10-hour work-days rest of the week. The retailer may also consider introducing a shorter week at its corporate headquarters and at more stores, if this trial goes well.
Although it’s unlikely that the four-day workweek will become commonplace soon, experiments are already on in many companies. The four-day workweek is on the rise in the US, especially among some small companies with highly skilled labour. According to the 2014 National Survey of Employers conducted by Families and Work Institute on 1,051 employers in US, 43 per cent said they allowed at least some employees to compress the workweek, logging longer hours on fewer days, for at least part of the year.
Treehouse, an online interactive education company in US with fewer than 100 employees, has a 32-hour workweek since it was founded in 2013. Its co-founder and chief executive, Ryan Carson established the four-day workweek to prevent burnout and reward employees. Slingshot SEO, a company providing search engine optimisation services also offers its employees four-day working weeks.
Computer programmer Cristian Rennella has shared with news.com.au how he managed to grow his tech start-up’s revenue by 204 per cent while introducing a four-day week. Rennella, co-founder of website elMejorTrato.com, which employs 34 people around the world, started experimenting with a new system of working in 2011. Within two years the company officially introduced four-day working weeks for all employees.
Not only private companies but a state in US has also experimented with four-day work weeks. In 2008 Utah became the first state in US to introduce a 4/10 workweek for many of its state employees (four 10-hour working days) to improve efficiency, reduce overhead costs and provide workers more flexibility. Initially it boosted productivity and worker satisfaction. However, three years later, they had to revert to the standard five-day week as the desired savings never materialised and residents complained about not having access to services on Fridays.
The argument for a four-day workweek finds great support from female workers, who might otherwise have to quit altogether. Employees, instead of missing office for visit to doctor or taking care of children, would have more flexibility with an extra day off to take care of such things. They would also save on commuting cost. At the level of the economy, if spending less time at work could lead to happier employees, it could mean improved quality of life and healthier populations. Career analysts predict that this type of work schedule will only get more popular in the future, as productivity is measured less in face time and more in results.
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