Tackling burnouts, work-related stress, and balancing professional and personal life have become key challenges as the boundary between work and life blurred during the pandemic with remote work becoming a norm.
India is no exception to this. One in three professionals in India is feeling burnt out due to increased workload and stress, according to a recent LinkedIn survey.
There is no doubt these are important concerns and need to be addressed by employers. Companies for their part are looking at multiple initiatives such as four-day week. But can initiatives such as four week work day be an answer to that and will one size fit all? A study by the management consultancy firm Gallup aimed to find answers.
Over the course of the last one year, many organisations and countries have piloted a four-day workweek without cutting down worker compensation.
Iceland conducted trials for a four-day workweek, which found that workers are less stressed, and their work-life balance improved. In July 2021, the Japanese government proposed a four-day workweek. Spain started piloting a four-day workweek early this year.
Apart from governments, organisations such as Unilever tried this in New Zealand and Indian cybersecurity firm TAC Security announced a four-day workweek for its employees.
Will it work?
Gallup in its report revealed that having a four-day workweek might not be as beneficial as one thought it would be, based on its survey of over 10,000 full-time employees. It found that 63 percent of employees working four days a week reported better well-being than those working five days (57 percent) and six days (56 percent). Burnout level was lower too for the four-day week. But the actively disengaged workers increased for shorter work days.
Actively disengaged employees refer to those workers who are unhappy at work and act out their unhappiness. “While the percentage of engaged workers was similar across the three workweek conditions, the percentage of actively disengaged workers was highest for those with four-day and six-day work weeks,” the report said. The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees was best for those with a five-day workweek -- a ratio of 3.2-to-1. Four-day workers had a ratio of 2.2-to-1, and six-day workers had a ratio of 2.1-to-1, the report added.
According to the report, the issue boils down to the workplace rather than workdays.
Gallup found that flexibility in the workplace results in higher employee engagement and thrive regardless of work hours. This also reduces stress levels. “While four-day workweeks may be a good idea for some individuals or organisations, policies that seek to control work-life "balance" are based on two dubious assumptions: 1) that work is inevitably a bad thing that should be reduced or avoided and 2) that we know what will work effectively for all people,” the report said.
"If employers focused on improving the quality of the work experience, they could have nearly triple the positive influence on employees' lives compared with shortening their workweek," the report added.