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The 4-day work week: What are the pros and cons?

Would this model even work in South Africa? Picture: File

Would this model even work in South Africa? Picture: File

Published Jun 21, 2022

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All around the world, there has been debate on whether or not the four-day work week should replace the current structure.

There are still many unanswered questions. Would this model even work in South Africa? What could it mean for the country's economy?

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According to futurist Belinda Silbert, a four-day work week can work very well in nations with a strong work ethic.

“People no longer want to feel like they’re slaves. So, this is going to be the standard work week in the future. South Africa will need to fall into place,” she believes.

However not everyone feels the same. We explored the pros and cons, which could include possible salary slashes (not advocated by the 4 Day Week Global) or less productivity.

The Pros

Extra time off for employees

Silbert says people are going to love getting an extra weekend day to rest and be with their families. Others said however if they faced a pay cut in exchange for a four-day week they would be forced to use the extra day to enhance their side hustles and earn extra income.

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Improved wellbeing

4 Day Week Global, an organisation pushing to make this type of work structure the norm across the world, reports that 78% of employees with four-day work weeks are happier and less stressed.

“Adopting a four-day work week is a business improvement strategy centred on working smarter rather than longer and investing in the wellbeing of the most important asset to any business – your people.

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“We advocate for the 100-80-100 model – 100% of the pay, 80% of the time, but critically in exchange for 100% of the productivity,” says the organisation.

Sustainability

Workers having an extra day off - if you work in the office - would be great to reduce the carbon footprint accrued from the commute to and from their office.

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Gender equality

It is all about child care. The 4 Day Week Global argues that it will “enable a better distribution of caring responsibilities between mothers and fathers”. That it would “even the playing field by reducing barriers to women achieving senior positions in work, and reduce childcare costs”.

The cons

Increased workload

“This extra day is an illusion because they will end up working much harder in order to squeeze in the necessary workload and meet deadlines,” says Silbert.

Economic incompatibility

Entrepreneur and business leader Vuyiswa Ramokgopa sees the four-day work week as incompatible with the country’s economy.

Ramokgopa believes that because SA is a developing country, it should be looking for ways to increase productivity and incorporate as many people as possible into the working place.

“This includes increasing employment. With a large youth population that needs to be employed to meet our national growth targets and address our numerous socio-economic challenges, it is premature for our country to be debating the idea of a four-day work week,” says Ramokgopa.

Increase in direct costs

Business can be strained by having to cover the same amount of wages for a decreased amount of work, according to Heiko Weidhase, the chief executive of the Efficient Group.

Less work on Thursdays

Several studies have shown that workers feel like they get less work done on Fridays. “There is the risk of Thursday becoming the new Friday, with workers winding down and contemplating their wonderful upcoming three-day weekend," says Weidhase.

Less Pay

While the 4 Day Week Global is advocating for 100% pay for the four-day week, some bosses believe they can get away with cutting a salary... and that some workers may in fact be okay with that. However it becomes murky ground if the employee is still delivering on everything as per their contract and will have to be a negotiation.

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