This article was written by Workforce Singapore’s Workipedia by MyCareersFuture.
The world of work is undergoing a major transformation. Phenomena such as the Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle have shown that many employees around the world no longer view work as something that should take priority over other aspects of life.
The rise of digitalization and remote working also means that employees have now adapted to working from home, allowing them to have more control over the balance between their work and personal commitments.
Unfortunately, not all work can be done from home or remotely. There are still many jobs that require on-site workers, such as those in the engineering, marine, and service industries, to name a few.
So if the workplace remains a controversial solution to achieving work-life balance, what about reducing the working week from five to four days?
Here are some insights into the four-day workweek from the team at Workipedia by MyCareersFuture!
What is a four-day working week and do workers in Singapore want it?
It’s not rocket science. A four-day workweek, as the name suggests, is basically working only four days a week instead of the usual five days, with no reduction in pay.
Depending on the company and industry, anyone can work Monday through Thursday and add Friday as a weekend to Saturday and Sunday.
Alternative arrangements may include implementing a company-wide policy of a different third day off or allowing each employee to choose their additional day off.
Working fewer days while earning the same amount of money seems like good business. And it’s no surprise that a survey conducted by Indeed found that around 88%, or four out of five Singaporean employees, favored promoting a four-day working week on the same pay.
And before anyone calls Singapore workers lazy, know this: Singaporeans may be known for a lot of things, but laziness is definitely not one of them.
In fact, they work so hard that Singapore was ranked the second most overworked city in a study of 40 cities around the world in 2019.
Plus, if that’s not enough to convince you that Singaporean workers are overworked, maybe this will: in the same study, Singapore ranked 32nd on the list for work-life balance, placing the city in 10th place.
Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the importance of work-life balance for Singaporeans almost two decades ago in 2004 in his National Day Rally speech:
“…I think we need a better work-life balance. Besides the high expectations that are the reason young people don’t get married, another reason is that they are just too busy… No time to go out, socialize, make friends. I think we work more hours. … I don’t know why, but the hours have become longer, the rhythm is more intense.
Are there any countries on the four-day work week and how did they do?
The four-day working week is already being seriously discussed and considered for adoption by European countries such as Iceland, New Zealand and Spain.
All four countries reported that their trials of a shorter workweek were successful with no significant negative impact on productivity, while increasing happiness and promoting better health among their workers.
Meanwhile, Japan’s famed for its workaholic culture has surprised us by unveiling its annual economic policy guidelines which include new recommendations for companies to allow their staff to choose to work four days a week instead of the usual five. .
The Japanese government’s initiative to promote a less stressful work culture has been welcomed by local conglomerates including Panasonic and Fujitsu.
The management of these companies cited improving productivity and improving work-life balance as their main goals.
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Should Singapore also jump on the four-day train?
While a four-day working week may have worked well for some countries, it’s still early days before the long-term effects can be seen.
At a glance, shortening the work week can bring benefits and seems viable in theory. However, its implementation at the national level is not an easy task. It will require a monumental shift away from the dominant work cultures, traditions and mindsets we are used to.
Before you start wondering whether or not the four-day working week is ideal for Singapore, MyCareersFuture’s Workipedia has put together the pros and cons of the four-day working week for you to think about. We even added our notes for each of them!
Benefits of a four-day work week
#1 More time for personal matters
It is clear that the advantage of working only four days a week is more free time. With this, workers can use that extra day to rest, spend quality time with family, or even take short trips (three days and two nights).
Workipedia Notes: Just make sure that after the short trip you don’t follow up with an MC the next day and childcare doesn’t leave the next day.
Read more: The Dream Team: Do You Have the Personality Employers Are Looking For?
#2 Increased efficiency and productivity
Working a shortened workweek means employees can spend more time resting or taking care of themselves, like catching up on sleep or a spa session. Well-rested employees are more focused and productive at work.
Microsoft Japan tested a four-day work week and productivity jumped 40% while dramatically reducing operating costs such as paper and electricity consumption.
Workipedia Notes: What may work in Japan may not necessarily work in Singapore due to different working cultures. Statistical data are good points of reference but should not be taken as a universal fact.
#3 Save money and less stress on trips
Simple math. Working fewer days means less time to get to work. This saves money on public transportation and reduces gas and parking expenses for those who drive. Employees are also less stressed by daily commutes during peak hours.
Workipedia Notes: Until the day scientists invent the teleportation machine, commuting during rush hour will still be a pain. The good news is that you don’t face it alone.
#4 Promotes mental well-being
Overwork is detrimental to mental health, which can lead to physical health problems caused by higher stress levels. Therefore, a three-day weekend can greatly promote a healthier work style and help maintain a work-life balance.
Workipedia Notes: If you feel stressed and anxious at work, please seek professional help. Don’t wait for Singapore to adopt the four-day working week.
Disadvantages of a four-day work week
#1 It is not applicable to all sectors and companies
Like working from home, not every industry or business can adapt to a four-day work system. Some sectors such as the tertiary sector need manpower throughout the week to support operations.
Workipedia notes: A one-size-fits-all approach will never work (pardon the pun) anywhere.
#2 Less time to complete work tasks
Taking a day off the work week can be difficult for workers who need more time to get their work done, such as those working on complex projects. They will end up working overtime, which defeats the main purpose of a four-day work week – more rest time.
Workipedia Notes: We also wouldn’t want those working in the construction industry to rush into building our skyscrapers.
#3 High costs for businesses
A consequence of point number two. Possible delays in projects can lead to significant negative results for companies and, in turn, affect the economy and the job market.
Workipedia Notes: Oh no, more bad news.
#4 Negative impact on customer satisfaction
Many industries require their employees to be accessible 24/7. Of course, this model assumes shift scheduling that ensures constant workforce accessibility. Reducing the work week from five to four would mean one less day of service.
Some companies may try to overcome this by maximizing the four working days.
For example, the famous Japanese clothing store Uniqlo increased the number of working hours per day to compensate for the reduced working day.
Workipedia notes: Making staff work longer to make up for a missing work day seems to defeat the main purpose of implementing a four-day work week.
#5 Inefficient workforce management
Moving to a four-day work week may require a complete overhaul of work schedules and benefits, including moving or eliminating holidays, reducing vacation days, and required hours of work per day.
However, the most difficult thing would be to line up the four-day work in all sectors. The amount of effort required to coordinate logistics to make everything run smoothly would be a nightmare for planners.
Workipedia Notes: This is a Herculean effort, and we send our best wishes in advance to the planners who need to coordinate it.
Take time off from work when you need it
Whether or not Singapore adopts the four-day working week, it is good to take time off from work when you feel tired, stressed or sick. Spending time for yourself or spending quality time with loved ones can help you recharge and be your best at work again.
Read more: Stressed out by work and career worries? Here is a help guide
If you’re not happy at work even after taking steps to improve the situation, it might be time to look for other opportunities. Speak to a career coach to get professional advice for the next step in your professional journey.
You can also find resources for your job search on Career GRIT! Good luck!