Four-day workweek pilot launching in South Africa soon – with 20 local companies on board

 ·2 Jan 2023

4 Day Week Global published its findings from its most extensive four-day week pilot, which showed that participating companies experienced increased revenue alongside reduced absenteeism and resignations, while employees experienced a significant increase in health and wellbeing.

The four-day week is based on the 100-80-100 model, which prescribes 100% of the pay for 80% of the time in exchange for a commitment to delivering 100% of the output.

These findings come after more than 30 companies and almost 1,000 employees in countries including the US, Ireland and Australia recently concluded a six-month four-day week pilot programme – with the UK data, which began in June 2022, expected to be released early 2023.

According to the report, workers felt less stressed and burnt out and reported higher rates of life satisfaction. Findings also show significant declines in the duration and frequency of commuting – which meant employees got more time to be productive.

The most notable outcomes of the report are listed below:

  • On average, revenue increased across all companies by 8.1% over the trial period and increased by 38% compared to the same period in 2021;
  • Employee fatigue decreased by 10%;
  • Employee stress and mental health issues decreased by 32% and 38%, respectively;
  • On average, employees engaged in 27 minutes of additional physical activity per week;
  • Work and family life balance increased by 60%, while relationships with colleagues and family members improved by 44.9%; and
  • Overall, life satisfaction increased by 57.5%.

The report also noted that participating companies rated the trial a nine out of ten, expressing extreme satisfaction with their overall productivity and performance – with none of the companies returning to a five-day week post-trial.

Additionally, 70% of the employees surveyed said they’d need a 10-50% pay increase to return to a five-day work week.

Four-day week trail in South Africa scheduled for early 2023

Speaking to Cape Talk, 4 Day Week South Africa director Karen Lowe said a four-day work week pilot will start in South Africa in February 2023. She added that 20 companies have signed up for the trial, and the pilot will run for six months.

“I’m positive that the 38% increase in revenue seen in the new data was partly due to the Covid-19 recovery, but we’re seeing improvements in company performance, productivity, and phenomenal employee health and wellbeing data,” said Lowe.

Lowe said there are hopes that the same results will be seen after the pilot in South Africa – especially when considering sub-Saharan Africa’s current workplace sentiments.

According to Gallup’s State of Global Workplace 2022 report, only 21% of employees in sub-Saharan Africa feel engaged with their work and evaluate their life as thriving.

Lowe is optimistic that the four-day week trial will provide a way to change these statistics. “The first concluded pilot just reported happier, healthier, and engaged employees, and that’s what we hope to see in the results when we start piloting next year,” she said.

However, there are questions about whether South Africa is ready for the model.

Kirk Kruger, master reward specialist with the South African Reward Association (SARA), said South African businesses are likely not ready to adopt a four-day workweek permanently.

“I don’t think South Africa as a country or an economy is ready for this on a large scale, and interested employers will want to test the waters before committing,” said Kruger.

Potential adopters are likelier to be niche organisations, such as smaller and medium-sized technology companies. Even then, he said that they should take time to investigate its impact on their operations, possibly running a pilot programme first.

Additionally, Abigail Butcher, the associate in the Employment Law practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, noted that South Africa has standing laws and negotiated positions around working hours, which complicate any formal shift in scheduling.

She pointed to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) which regulates the working hours of employees who earn under the ministerial threshold of R224,080.30, and specific sectors which are regulated by a sectoral determination.

“For South Africa to implement a four-day work week, this legislation would effectively need to be amended,” she said.

Read: Employment boom for one of South Africa’s most important job sectors

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