Five days work-week

Here’s a discussion in CiteHR about the pros and cons of five day work week

The term ‘Workweek’ stands for the time spent at work and ‘Weekend’ for the time spent away from work. During the first few years of industrial revolution, the number of work hours would go up to 10 hrs a day. There were no standards defining maximum number of day for weekend till Henry Ford declared the five days work-week with a pay of six days. The concept was to pay the employees and worker more and create time away from work. The ‘Leisure time’, as described by him was quintessential for productivity. The extra cash would be spent on consumerism hence add on to the GDP. His concept was ,a well managed business pay higher wages and sell at low prices.

This was successfully managed at the service and administrative sector. However, the logistics, health care, manufacturing and defence had to manage it differently. The continuity in the business in addition to scaling up of productivity and talent shortage in different pockets made it difficult to implement. The work timings were then divided into shifts and weekends were allotted other than usual Saturday or Sunday. This worked till a point where the cost of production was manageable. During economic recession, the production had to be managed and increased to meet the cost. Certain verticals such as IT which had five days work-week since the very beginning, switched to six days work week to justify the billability of the talent. Paradoxically, few companies offered more time off from work as a non-monetary benefit to the employees. During downturn even manufacturing companies offered time off from work to apportion the cost of talent rather than retrenching them. For e.g.; if a company had to retrench talent because of a limited production and cost of productivity running high, they offered lower pay and lesser work time but did not retrench anyone.

Five days work week seems to be rolling post recession for obvious reason. As the demand for the business increase, the hiring has been aggressive. Hence the talent shortages have been balanced. The retention strategies now designed, no longer includes growth and benefit but work-life balance. Hence offering a longer weekend works as a benefit to the employees.

The implementation holds different challenges across the sectors. The cultural factors may point that time taken away from work need not be spent leisurely. It may be just slept away or spent in taking care of chores not managed during the workweek. The next threat is from taking up a part time job. This is legally covered by ‘dual employment’, which will not allow any employee to be employed for the skills offered to the employer. Furthermore the time and the resource may not be invested to cultivate a new skill or leisure. As debt-averse culture, we tend to put the extra money earned into saving. Production needs to be well managed through shifts with back-up talent to ensure in case an employee doesn’t join back from the weekend, it doesn’t hamper production. The work-plan needs to be followed up initially till the employee settles to finish the tasks with the stipulated time. The initial phase of implementation needs to mitigate all the risks including absenteeism, bottle-neck at work, excessive drinking as the free time increases and etc. It would require repeated education to bring in a cultural change where the workforce values the time off from work and returns to be more productive. For manufacturing sector, it would further require to manage the cost of wages with lower work hours. Though this can be justified with higher productivity in the long run. It would further require the support functions to work including the safety department, security and technical support to the plant unit. Hence the shift work timing needs to be considered for not just for the workers but for the support functions as well. Statutory compliances may require them to close the plant on National or declared holiday. Such an event can be managed through working for an extra day during the weekends.

The purpose of implementing this program would work only when it is accepted equally by the management and the employees and simultaneously accentuate into productivity. It will constitute as an important strategy as, “The quality of employees will be directly proportional to the quality of life you maintain for them.”- Charles E. Bryan