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Would a Four-day Workweek Be Effective in the Philippines
March 30, 2022 by Martin Luigi Lagustan
Since the pandemic and the rise of remote work, employees have been demanding a more progressive approach in terms of their work schedules. After all, a flexible schedule does give you more room for other things like trying to pursue hobbies, buying a house and lot for sale, spend time with the people you love and so much more.
Recently, people and the government started talking about a four-day workweek. Should this be the norm? Why do we even work for five days a week?
Why do we have a five day workweek?
How long a person should work in a week has long been debated on. The motor company, Ford, even popularized the five-day, Monday to Friday work pattern in 1926. However, before that, people usually worked for six days a week, with only Sundays off.
During the six-day workweek era, Henry Ford thought that reducing the workweek to fewer hours or into five days (with the same pay) would help in increased productivity of workers and that shorter workweeks would make people put more effort during their working days. According to the BBC, Henry Ford’s theory was found to be proven correct, and the five-day workweek became the common practice we see and experience today.
Some years after that, labor unions started to introduce a four-day workweek in the 1950s, thinking that if we take another workday off the week towards a shorter workweek, it would present even better results. However, fast-forward to today, the four-day workweek is still yet to be seen in the majority of companies. According to a survey conducted by Gallup of 10,364 full-time employees, only 5% of them worked for four days a week and 84% said they worked for five, while 11% worked for six.
However, while the pandemic might have urged you to buy a house and lot for sale, it also reawakened the four-day workweek movement.
Since the pandemic started, backed by how millennials (and some gen zs) are now demanding more flexible working schedules, some leaders started considering the four-day workweek. According to the California-based 4 Day Week Global’s program director, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the pandemic emphasized how workers can change how they work quite dramatically since the Great Resignation urged companies to think of new recruitment and retention techniques to keep their employees happy.
So far, there are two four-day workweek models. First, by cutting one workday, employees will also have reduced working hours but will get paid the same wage. The second involves more intense working hours, as five days’ worth of work will be crammed into longer four-day shifts.
The general goal, however, is to reduce the working hours of employees without cutting their pay. This can be achieved by a combination of new operating practices and tools that will help boost the efficiency of their employees. Without careful planning, the sudden shift may cause greater risk, which can lead to employees getting overworked for four days instead.
The company that switched to a four-day workweek trials
Buffer, a social media company with more than 80 employees, prides itself in having a progressive work setting for its employees. In 2015, they got rid of their office and switched to fully remote work. They also provide salary transparency where they publish everyone’s pay online, and they enforce other flexibility options.
When the COVID pandemic hit the world, co-founder Joel Gascoigne saw how their employees were stressed a lot of times. To resolve this, he enforced a three-day weekend for May 2020 as an experiment. At the end of 2021, they conducted an employee survey and found that 91% of their employees were happier and more productive with this new schedule.
However, it wasn’t a sudden movement.
CNBC reports that the company had to overcome the four biggest problems to make the four-day workweek work.
1. How will everyone get their work done on time
According to Hailley Griffis, the head of public relations of Buffer, the first thing they had to figure out was how will everyone get their work done without affecting deadlines.
During their first month, most of their teams worked with the mindset that they were doing the same workload in a shorter time and realized that this wouldn’t be sustainable. So, they thought of ways how they should do things differently.
Their goal was to get everyone to work for only 32 hours in a four-day workweek. However, to achieve this, they figured that they needed to change how they worked. According to Buffer, they had to cut down on meetings, switching from weekly check-ins to monthly and transitioning to asynchronous communication. On top of that, they also adjusted the expectations of their clients of how long it would take to meet their deadlines.
According to Griffis, this required a huge shift in mindset, especially with senior leaders.
But then, another problem came into the picture, “are employees secretly working on Fridays to get all of their work done?”
They conducted employee surveys and found that 73% of their workers worked on a shortened schedule, whether it was a four-day workweek or five shorter days. The rest were found to be working an average of four and a half days, working a few hours on the fifth day so they can catch up on easy tasks or emails.
2. Which day should you take off
Another challenge they had to work on was figuring out which day they should take off. According to Buffer, at the beginning of their trials, they gave each team their choice. Some teams took Wednesdays off, including Griffis' team, and found that it was phenomenal because they didn't work for more than two days.
Unfortunately, giving everyone the freedom to choose their extra time off proved to be too disorganized because some teams needed to work with other teams. So, the company standardized Fridays off. If you're planning on buying a house and lot for sale, that will give you more time to process your papers quickly, don't you think?
3. Maintaining coverage
All of the employees of Buffer transitioned to the Fridays off schedule except for their customer service department. This is because the company offers customer support seven days a week.
To apply the four-day workweek to their customer service department, they did staggered rotations so that they can cover the weekends. On top of that, they hired more customer service staff to maintain their seven-day coverage, while providing their employees with the shortened four-day workweek.
Hence, if you own a company and are thinking of applying the four-day workweek, you should consider which teams need a full week's worth of work so you can adjust accordingly.
4. Employee engagement took a hit
In 2021, Buffer conducted a survey and found that 84% of their employees were able to get the work required even with the shortened four-day workweek, maintaining company productivity. However, they also found that employee engagement went down.
It turned out that reducing their meetings also led to cutting down formal and informal social time. Seeing this, they had to find a way to create space for team management and to be more intentional. This included conducting virtual social events so that their employees can connect beyond just work meetings.
After tackling these four things, Buffer proved that the four-day workweek is possible and won't affect employee productivity as long as you plan it well and handle the hurdles that each department faces. According to Buffer, they were successful in switching to a four-day workweek because their leaders were really committed to making it work. Instead of thinking, "should we keep doing this?" they thought, "how do we make this work?"
Benefits of a four-day workweek
While Buffer has proven that with a little effort and leadership, a company can transition to a four-day workweek. If you own a company or business and you're interested in switching to the shortened workweek, here are some of the benefits you can expect, according to Investopedia.
The main goal of the four-day workweek movement is to improve the quality of life of employees. Because really, weekends aren't enough. Most employees end up being mostly stressed on Sundays because they have to think about the stuff they need to do tomorrow.
By working fewer days in a week, employees have more time for personal stuff, including:
Spending more time with family, friends, and self
Home maintenance and improvement (which, by the way, can help increase the value of a house and lot for sale)
According to a study published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Diagnosis and Treatment, satisfaction with work and family has been found to improve happiness, life satisfaction, and perceived quality of life. Moreover, they found that adaptive strategies helped adapt to problems that arise at work and home.
With this, on top of what Buffer did, we can say that a four-day workweek definitely has a lot of benefits, not only for work but also for the overall well-being of employees.
Now, of course, there has to be something in it for employers. After all, policies should always benefit both sides of the story, especially when it comes to business.
According to Investopedia, companies that put their people first and follow diversity, inclusivity, flexible work schedules, less than 40 hours workweek, and remote work experience:
A larger pool of applications for open positions
An increase in sales
Reduced burnout complaints from employees and improved employee retention
Lower operating costs (unless a company works fully remote)
In Utah, United States, a trial was conducted for government employees on the ecological impact of reducing the workweek from five days to four days while applying a compressed work schedule. In the first ten months, the trial saved over 1.8 million USD in energy costs and a reduction of at least 6,000 metric tons of carbon emissions caused by closing office buildings on Fridays (not to mention the commutes of employees which could be estimated to save up to 12,000 metric tons of carbon emissions).
Challenges of a four day week for work
Of course, as good as a four-day workweek sounds, it doesn’t come without its challenges. For starters, this shortened work schedule in a compressed workweek doesn’t mean employees will maintain their pay and benefits. Some organizations and businesses used a four-day workweek to cut back on salary costs (Stanley Black and Decker and the Los Angeles Times have reportedly reduced 20% of their payroll costs).
Meanwhile, an online coding school called Treehouse started as a four-day workweek company in 2013. The CEO, Ryan Carson, used the four-day workweek strategy from his previous company and was publicly praising the benefits of the shortened week. However, in 2016, Carson switched to a 40-hour workweek and had to lay people off. He said that the shortened 32-hour workweek affected his work ethic and was found to be detrimental to the business.
Moreover, a four-day workweek where the hours are compressed to 10-hour days can be grueling for employees, which beats the purpose of improving productivity and saving the company money.
Not everybody likes the idea of a shortened four-day workweek for a lot of reasons. Some actually enjoy the social aspects of their jobs and have fun engaging that they don’t want to do less. Other employees may find that the compressed week gives them more pressure to get more work done in less time.
Four Day work week in the Philippines for a Good Work Life Balance
Since we're on the subject, can we expect the four-day workweek setting in our country? Quick answer: maybe.
According to Manila Times, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that it is supportive of the implementation of a four-day workweek in both private and public companies, as this can help workers cope with the rising prices of fuel and other commodities.
Labor Undersecretary Benjo Benavidez said that the four-day workweek isn’t new as this work arrangement has been used during financial crises. However, he also said that it’s up to the companies if they want to enforce this work scheme.
On the other hand, Inquirer reports that the Civil Service Commission (CSC) suggests combining the four-day workweek with the work-from-home arrangement. They believe this can help the work-life balance of employees.
In terms of whether this scheme will be effective in the Philippines, this will definitely vary in the industry. For industries that require 24/7 operations (like healthcare), it may not be effective as they will need to hire more employees to fill the gap, just like what Buffer did for their customer service team. This alone may scare away employers as this can increase their spending on the payroll.
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