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Is the five-day work week a relic of the past?

Can people having an extra day off be good for the environment? Picture: Pixabay

Can people having an extra day off be good for the environment? Picture: Pixabay

Published Jul 22, 2022

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Durban - The five-day working week is a relic of the past, and more companies and countries are realising the value of introducing a four-day working week.

This is according to Seugnet van den Berg, the founding partner of Bizmod.

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Van den Berg cites large organisations, such as Unilever, in New Zealand, and Microsoft, in Japan, which are trialling the four-day working week.

“Many smaller organisations are also trialling this option and the UK is currently running the world’s biggest trial with over 70 companies taking part. This is based on a 100-80-100 model – 100 percent pay for 80 percent of the time in exchange for a commitment of 100 percent productivity,” she says.

Global contractor Roland Rosevear echoes Van den Berg’s sentiments and says such structures as the five-day work week belong in the museum of work. Rosevear advocates that more people work from the comfort of their homes.

“Just had a work memory about when I had to commute and work in an office with a full suit and tie on, with no air-con, on hot summer days to talk to customers on the phone. That’s certainly a work practice that can stay in the #museumofwork,” he wrote on LinkedIn.

“The advantages of a four-day working week are ample for organisations, employees and the environment,” says Van den Berg. Here are the four key advantages of a four-day week she highlights:

An increase in productivity

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Research has shown that productivity is not reduced by a four-day working week. A study by Stanford University revealed a clear correlation between overworked employees and a decline in productivity during a five-day working week.

Microsoft in Japan found productivity boosted by 40 percent when they introduced a four-day working week. A marketing agency in Scotland also saw an increase in profits by 30 percent and productivity by 24 percent.

Attracting and retaining the best talent

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We are all looking for a work-life balance, and a flexible working environment provides that and is thus a major drawcard for many.

Higher moral and efficiency

Shorter working weeks allow employees to have more time to recharge. Overworked, stressed and burnout sees employees being less efficient, regardless of the number of workdays.

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Environmental benefits

With less people commuting to the office, there will be a drop in carbon emission. A report in the UK found that changing to a four-day week by 2025 could see the UK’s annual carbon footprint reduce by 127 metric tons – that’s the equivalent of having 27 million cars off the road.

Belinda Silbert, a futurist, thinks that societies with strong work ethics can benefit greatly from a four-day work week.

She says people no longer desire to experience what is akin to slavery. So, in the future, the four-day work week will be the norm. South Africa must prepare for this as it will not happen immediately, she adds.

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