Several major companies in South Africa say that a 4-day workweek will not work with their operations; however, many have already adopted alternative working arrangements.
Currently, the second phase of the 4-day workweek pilot is underway in South Africa.
It is based on the 100-80-100 model, where employees get 100% of the pay for 80% of the time in exchange for producing 100% of the output.
“The trial will follow the format of similar pilot programmes that have taken place in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – and are currently taking place with the 4 Day Week SA Pioneer Pilot underway,” the 4 Day Week South Africa said.
The main objective of the 4-day workweek is to improve productivity and well-being in the workplace and attract and retain talent.
However, many organisations have expressed concerns over the plans.
Despite engaging with the SA 4-day pilot team, Steve Teasdale, Chief People Experience Officer at Discovery, said the company is not looking to introduce a 4-day workweek.
“Our view is that for many types and sizes of businesses and organisations, the implementation of the 4-day workweek will be an incredible success both in terms of productivity and the flexibility for its people, and the research of the 4-day workweek certainly supports this,” Teasdale said.
“The reality is that for certain businesses and their operations, it will not generate the benefits, and other work models that balance flexibility and productivity will be more suited.”
Several banks also said the 4-day workweek would not align with their operations.
Ayn Brown, Chief People Officer at TymeBank, said that as a retail bank, it runs a 24/7 operation, making a 4-day workweek impossible.
Nedbank’s Group Executive for Human Resources, Deb Fuller, expressed similar sentiments.
“While we continue to innovate to meet the changing needs of the workforce, we aim to balance workforce needs with ensuring operational continuity and uninterrupted customer service,” Fuller said.
RMB’s Chief People Officer, Sungeetha Sewpersad, also said that the organisation is not looking to implement a 4-day workweek as the company must be available for its customers at all times.
Experts in South Africa’s retail space also expressed doubts about a 4-day workweek for their businesses.
Thuli Tabudi, National Human Resources Executive at the SPAR Group, said that it is impossible to implement a 4-day workweek given how the retail sector operates.
“We have not discussed this (the 4-day workweek) due to the nature of our business. Within the SPAR Group, we work seven days per week to deliver stock to our retailers so that they, in turn, have stock on shelves for their consumers,” Tabudi said.
Moreover, Travis Coppin, CEO of Food Lover’s Market retail division, said that retail is a seven-day business and requires constant commitment, with the vast majority of Coppin’s colleagues having hands on roles at the group’s stores.
Despite many of these companies saying that they cannot implement a 4-day workweek, many of them, especially in the banking space, are implementing a hybrid work model – where employees work between their company’s offices and remotely.
In 2021, Nedbank adopted an approach where a number of its staff would work from the office, some remotely, and some would adopt a hybrid model.
Fuller from Nedbank said that the company would continue to implement the hybrid model as its staff using the model have been extremely productive and engaged.
In addition, Brown from TymeBank said that the company has a hybrid environment for most of its roles.
FirstRand’s RMB and FNB also said they would be committed to a blended model to meet the needs of its employees.
African Bank also said that it is adopting a hybrid model, with employees only coming to the office three days a week.
Moreover, Teasdale said that 75% of Discovery’s business operates in one of three hybrid working models that match the nature of work for the employee.
“But we acknowledge that we are still in a very early learning stage regarding the hybrid working model. As such, we will continue to adapt and adjust our methods as we find ways for our employees to be happier and our business to become more productive,” Teasdale said.
Although grocery retailers require a hands-on approach at stores, some organisation roles can use a hybrid system.
For instance, Spar’s Tabudi said that, where applicable, the group has people working in hybrid roles.
However, Food Lover’s Market’s Coppin said that a 4-day workweek could not work given the hands-on nature of a retail environment.
On an industrial level, Volkswagen has also developed a hybrid working arrangement for its head office employees, with the company also piloting flexible working arrangements for its production employees.
Overall, the recruitment platform Pnet said that the number of jobs offering work-from-home opportunities had decreased slightly over the last year, but it has skyrocketed over the last few years.
“We can see in our data that, although the trend of advertising remote work opportunities is down 28.2% when comparing January 2023 to January 2022, January 2023 is up 87.8% on January 2021 and up 1,289% on January 2020,” Pnet said.
“Although the general trend in offering work-from-home opportunities is down year on year, the sectors that offer the most remote working opportunities are Information Technology, Business & Management and Finance.”
Update: The article previously said that African Bank had implemented a three-day workweek. However, the group instead offers a hybrid workweek where employees come to the office three days a week.