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Coronavirus pandemic open doors for 4-day workweek

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Washington D.C. | May 25, 2020 10:11:42 AM IST
Most companies in the United States are looking forward to shortening work hours and include a four-day workweek in response to the novel coronavirus crisis as some countries implemented the idea floated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda and observed an increase in staff productivity as well as better quality of life.

After quashing coronavairus outbreak in less than 50 days, Ardern floated the idea of having a four-day workweek which has been implemented in some countries.

In a Facebook video last week, Ardern said, she was seeking creative ways to stimulate domestic tourism help the industry recover as the country begins to reopen with strict border measures still in place, The Washington Post reported.

"I've heard lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week," she said. "Ultimately, that really sits between employers and employees."

"I've heard lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week," she said. "Ultimately, that really sits between employers and employees."

"I'd really encourage people to think about that if you're an employer and in a position to do so," Ardern said, "if that's something that would work for your workplace."

But Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the author of "Shorter: Work Better, Smarter, and Less -- Here's How", says the idea of bringing about a radical change in workplaces was gaining a global cohort of converts long before the coronavirus pandemic upended life on every continent.

After spending time in offices that had implemented the policy in Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea the United Kingdom, the United States and Scandinavian countries to track why they were making the shift, he said, "It's not just touchy-feely social democracies that are doing it", but also countries where "overwork is the norm."

Finland's prime minister has touted the idea, the UK's Labour Party has campaigned on it, and companies including Microsoft in Japan and Shake Shack in the United States have succeeded in trying out versions of it.

A UK-based study conducted last year found 64 per cent of leaders of businesses with four-day workweeks saw an increase in staff productivity, while 77 per cent of workers linked it to a better quality of life. The same study also cited bureaucratic hurdles like contracts as among the major limitations.

That's in part why before the pandemic, Karen Jansen, a researcher on organizational behaviour in the UK, estimated a major shift toward the shorter workweek wouldn't happen before 2030.

However, researchers noted that much like remote work, four-day weeks, even if they gained widespread traction, would not likely be available to all workers evenly. There are different models for the shortened week, some of which envision the same output condensed into fewer hours while others simply imagine longer hours spread over fewer days.

The pandemic has already exacerbated divides between those with professions that can be done remotely and the workers in health care, retail, delivery, food-processing and other sectors who cannot stay home and face an elevated risk.

The crisis has also amplified inherent inequalities between workers in formal jobs, with set contracts and hours, and those in the gig and informal economy.

The four-day workweek can't fix these labour "bubbles," Jansen to the Post. Instead, she said, the three-day weekend would become a "bubble" like remote work, encompassing a growing number of people and professions while excluding others. (ANI)

 
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