Could Malaysia Have a 4-Day Work Week in the Future?
Working weekdays, resting on the weekends, am I right? However, have you ever wondered, who decides that in the first place? How did we come to a norm of working 5 days a week?
Well, believe it or not, before the 1900s, it was a norm to work up until 6 days a week! It was not until the union advocacy demanded to have a day off, that the working days became 5 days a week.
With that being said, we are getting even more awareness of the importance of rest nowadays, so it’s not surprising that we are pushing for another day off. Especially since the pandemic; the concept of working for only four days has been even more feasible due to the adaptation of work flexibility. It can be implemented in various ways; Fridays off, half days off, and varied days off for different employees are all the possibilities.
The theory behind the 4-day work week is that by having employees work fewer days a week, they will have more time to pursue hobbies, spend time with family, get more sleep, and boost their general morale. This will make them more productive and rejuvenated, compensating for the day they would have been overworked or overtired otherwise.
At the moment, though the concept sounds very desirable, those who play the devil’s advocate on this matter cannot be ignored. So let’s get right into the business; what are the pros and cons of Malaysia having a 4-day work week?
1. Improved productivity.
Did you know that some of the world’s most productive countries, such as Norway, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, work on average only about 27 hours per week? And conversely, Japan, which is a country famed for overworked workers, is ranked 20th out of 35 countries in terms of productivity?
This counterintuitive theory that shorter workdays equal more productivity, has been tested across multiple settings; they all point to quite a promising result. For example, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based corporation, performed a 4-day work week pilot study. The results of the study show that employees not only maintained the same level of productivity. However, it also improved in job happiness, teamwork, work-life balance, and business loyalty. Employees were also less stressed, with a drop from 45% to 38%.
2. Equal workplace for everyone.
For many people, commitments outside of the office are as crucial as commitments inside the office, if not more important. And due to this particular reason, many employees who are very good at their job, ultimately have to drop out. As they find balancing those commitments were getting harder and harder for them.
This is such a waste of talent and needs to be avoided. Employers have to ensure that their roles in their organization are as sustainable as possible, by enforcing appropriate accommodations for their employees. Setting the standard of working only 4 days a week, is one of the ways we can achieve that.
For example, according to the Government Equalities Office’s Equal Workplace Research on the Gender Pay Gap in Britain, around two million British workers are currently unemployed due to childcare duties, with 89% of these persons being women. This is a big loss of women in the workplace. Thus, it is suggested to reduce the workdays to only 4 days. As a result, employees would be able to spend more time with their families. Moreover, it also better integrate care and job commitments.
3. Better employee welfare.
Fewer workdays mean more days to rest and recover. As a result, employees are less likely to be anxious or take sick leave. They will also return to work feeling more energized and more ready to tackle challenges in the workplace. This in general, will make them happier and more devoted.
For instance, Sweden performed a trial study on a shortened work week from 2015 to 2017, where nurses in a care facility worked only six hours a day, five days a week. The results were mostly favourable, with nurses reporting fewer sick days, improved physical and mental well-being, and increased involvement as they planned 85% more activities for the patients under their care.
1. Public expectancy needs to be managed.
Imagine how heartbreaking it will be when you have planned to go to a government office on a Friday for example. Later on only to find out they were never open in the first place on that day when you arrived. Frustrating, isn’t it?
We are now all too familiar with working days is from Monday to Friday. So even if we know a 4 days work week will be more beneficial, it will be hard to align our expectations and routines. Especially due to the flexibility, where the way it will be executed will not be uniform for all organizations. This will make us confused, and make it harder for us to go about our business.
Even a trial in Utah, which had excellent results, was forced to close due to customers complaining that they couldn’t get government services because the offices were closed on Friday.
2. The Malaysian norm of rating on the number of hours worked (instead of tasks done).
We Malaysians have been accustomed to believing that good employees work for longer hours. This is the opposite of how work is counted in a 4 days work week (which is by tasks done) and goes against the very counterintuitive theory that we talked about earlier; where fewer workdays are expected to make the employees even more productive.
This particular belief of ours creates a challenging and detrimental work culture. In which a small amount of work is “dragged out” to make the workplace appear as busy as possible. This contributes to the stereotype of the slacker Malaysian. However, it also explains why employers believe that “fewer hours equals less work”. Thus, it will be hard for both Malaysian employers and employees to implement a 4-day workday effectively.
3. The Malaysian norm of bosses bugging their employees after office hours.
An extension from the point above, since work is calculated by hours, then it’s perfectly okay for your boss to ask you to do work even after you punch out, right? You as the employee must show your dedication to your career. This is by entertaining work requests, even when it’s off-hours or days, right? *sigh*
With this bad habit of bosses around Malaysia, workers are already skeptical that their employers will adhere to the 4-day work week when they are already required to be on call even during off-hours. Therefore, if Malaysians want to implement this system effectively, a lot of training will be needed. This is to ensure both employees and employers understand how a 4-day work week works. It includes mechanisms on how reducing work hours actually increases productivity, and how to measure performance within the system.
So, with these pros and cons, should you adapt the 4-day work week into your workplace? The answer is, it depends.
It’s different for every company, every employee, and every industry. One thing to remember is, you cannot bring the same expectation of the 5-day work week, into the 4-day work week. Additionally, the 4-day work week is not a one-size-fits-all solution or a magic pill to all of your employee-related problems. Every problem has its cause and core, and you should treat that first and foremost, instead of sweeping those problems under the rug of a 4-day work week.
With that being said, there are already organizations in Malaysia that implemented the 4-day work week.
- Twistcode: this provider of supercomputer and AI solutions, has announced that it would begin using a 4-day work week on July 23, 2021, where its employees will work from Monday to Thursday, from 9 AM to 5 PM. The company assured that its online services will continue to operate normally, and the staff salary will not be affected.
- Malaysia’s Commission Factory: Employees at Malaysia’s Commission Factory have been using the extra day to spend time with their families, take classes to improve their skills and expertise, or earn some more money to augment their wages. Additionally, they also report positive results, with month-over-month and year-over-year revenue growth.
- 4 Thirteen: the CEO of this branding agency personally stated that he had witnessed the excellent impact the 4-day work week had on the team, with major increases in morale, momentum, and general efficiency.
If you are also interested in being among the pioneers in Malaysia to implement a 4-day work week into your workforce, you can visit 4 Day Week Global to read up on reliable sources. 4 Day Week Global is a non-profit network. It brings together like-minded people who embrace the idea of a 4-day work week as a part of the future of work.
Alas, if you do choose this 4-day work week system, it must not be chosen hastily or superficially, due to the hype nor due to the surface level benefits. It must be researched thoroughly, taking account of the organization’s readiness and capacity to change to a new system. Only then it will be implemented effectively, and work like it’s supposed to be. All the best!
For further reading, check out this article on Employee Benefits You Can Discuss With Your Employer.