A happy employee anticipating a 4-day work week in India

Corporate experiments have found that reduced working hours (four-day work weeks) are beneficial for employees as they get more time to relax, cook, exercise, enjoy hobbies, and spend time with their families. All these help improve their well-being and level of job satisfaction, thus making them more energized and productive at work.

If slogging for more than nine hours every day, five or six days a week, at your office or workplace in India kills you, you may be eagerly waiting for the good news of Indian companies implementing a 4-day work week. But it could be too soon to jump with joy because though most 4-day working week trials across the world are hailed as successful, there are still many critics of the new movement.  

Though the four-day working week continues to attract attention and is hotly debated, there’s no doubt that it’s gaining momentum with pilots taking place in Ireland, the UK, Canada, the US, and Australia. These pilot programmes, driven by 4 Day Week Global – a non-profit coalition, are believed to benefit everyone by boosting workers’ happiness levels, work-life balance, and productivity while reducing unemployment.

Though you won’t get very high worker productivity with four working days each week, most companies participating in the pilot projects said their productivity has either stayed the same or improved. This is a reason good enough to give it a try. However, the biggest question of all is – will it work in India?

For some, a four-day working week could be too good to be true. Though the system will have its pros and cons, the results it brings need further research and four-day week statistics should be carefully analysed. Additionally, both its advantages and disadvantages need to be debated seriously, especially with employers and employees, before rolling it out.

When Will We Have a 4-Day Work Week in India?

In the US, a 4-day work week bill in Congress could make it all a reality soon. The Indian government isn’t behind as it has planned to implement new labour laws in the next financial year that would let companies have four working days (instead of five or six). The bill calls for employees to work 12 hours daily instead of 8 hours to meet the 48-hour weekly work requirement.

According to a PTI report, plans and rules for the new system have already been finalised by the government, which has drawn the labour codes and now needs the states to frame regulations on their part because labour is a concurrent matter.

The new proposed four-day work week in India will have a significant impact on employee pay and PF (provident fund) contributions. There will be a reduction in the take-home salary and companies and their employees will have to bear a higher provident fund liability. If reports are to be believed, this means the employees will have less in-hand salary and more money in their PFs.

Is a 4-Day Work Week in India Feasible?

The proposed four-day work week in India will affect industries and businesses in different ways. The new system will be easy to implement in corporate offices in sectors like insurance, banking, technology, and e-commerce. However, other industries like agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare will find it difficult to shift to a four-day work week. Let’s examine the reasons.  

In the case of manufacturing and healthcare, for example, where incessant operations are run in a cyclical fashion, it could be challenging to implement 12-hour shifts. It may not even be humanely plausible for factory workers or nurses to function repetitively manner for such a long period.

Even if some employees agree to such extended working hours, there will be another problem area. Employers may have to pay employees overtime, which could be a financial burden to them, and thus, not something they will easily agree upon.

According to the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, for the manufacturing sector, workers aren’t allowed to have working hours beyond the stipulated eight. Due to such rules and the nature of their work, it won’t be pragmatic to implement a four-day work week in these industries. Since these industries need ongoing attention and care, they will be unable to function properly if forced to adopt a four-day work week.

Companies registered under the Factories Act too can find implementing the 4-day work week difficult as they can’t force their employees to work for 9+ hours on any day and 48+ hours on any week. However, for organised sectors, especially where employees are working for 12 hours or even more, adopting the new labour codes and standards could bring in some much-needed transparency.

Since many employees, who were forced to work from home during COVID-19, now prefer to continue with this style of working, the new labour laws have drafted rules for such workers and their employers to help the former maintain their work-life balance. 

Another significant change to be introduced as part of the 4-day work week in India will be the number of paid leaves. The new laws are demanding to increase the number of holidays to 450 that employees can cash on carrying forward, unlike 300 holidays that employees in government offices get. These days, different departments have 240 to 300 holidays, but employees can cash them only after they have been in the service for 20 years.

Wrapping Up

Worldwide pilot projects for a 4-day work week have got participation from workers in financial services, hospitality, marketing, banks, retail, healthcare, and several other industries. Though there’s still time before the new labour laws are implemented to pave the way for a four-day work week in India, factors raised by critics against the system like additional costs and reduced competitiveness need to be pondered upon.

But the pilot projects indicate that if you want to stimulate productivity growth, increase workers’ happiness, and boost their job satisfaction, while improving work life balance, replacing five-day working weeks with four-day weeks could be the path forward.

Employers need to realise that raising workers’ productivity doesn’t always mean stretching their working hours. Instead, the focus should be on the quality of work and factors that support such top-notch quality, like what the four-day work week aims to do.

Do you believe a 4-day work week in India is achievable by employers? And how do you think will the employees react ahead of the implementation of this new way of working?

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