A push for a four-day work week as we move toward a more flexible work model

 ·5 Jun 2022

Workers across the globe are calling for more flexibility, better work-life balance and more choice in deciding when, where and how to best do their jobs, says Manpower Group chairman and CEO, Jonas Prising.

“The last two years have accelerated new ways of working and collaborating. Before the pandemic, we couldn’t seem to get off the starting block despite increased investment in tech and a rising movement among workers,” said.

As part of the World Economic Forums Annual Meetings in Davos this year, Prising provided his insight into the concept of a four-day work week and what it means for the future of work.

He said that workers want a permanent move toward a more diverse and flexible work model and that all the signs that arose out of the pandemic point toward it becoming a reality.

Prising said that the four-day work week is a hot topic with newsfeeds full of companies and governments initiating various trials.

“Belgium’s right to work a five-day week in four days with no loss of salary. Iceland’s ‘overwhelming success’ trialing a shortened work week with ‘dramatically increased’ employee wellbeing. And the UK business-driven four-day work, five-days pay, or the seven-day ‘just get your work done’ model are just some more examples,” said the Manpower Group chief executive.

Prising said that working flexibly gives employees greater focus. Microsoft Japan reported a 40% jump in productivity gains and a rise in employee happiness when it trialed a four-day work week.

According to Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, after the United Arab Emirates introduced a shortened work week at the beginning of 2022, roughly 70% of employees reported working more efficiently, while there was a 55% reduction in absenteeism.

“Organisations making a conscious shift to attract and retain talent by offering choice and flexibility will be more successful when it comes to what really matters to employees beyond the paycheck,” said the Manpower Group.

Workers care deeply about working for companies that share their values and beliefs and offer them choices, said Prising.

“Offering flexible work- allowing people to choices about what time they start and end, what they work on, with whom, and how often – is redefining how companies in virtually every industry compete for talent.”

Prising’s comments come at a time when much has been said about a ‘great resignation’ globally, following the Covid pandemic. A recent PwC survey of 52,000 people across 44 countries and territories about the future of work suggested that 1-in-5 workers are likely to switch to a new employer in the next 12 months.

The survey listed the following factors resigning people are less likely to agree with:

  • find their job fulfilling (-14%)
  • feel they can be their true self at work (-11%)
  • feel fairly rewarded financially (-9%)
  • feel their team cares about them (-9%)
  • feel that their manager listens to them (-7%)

PwC noted that 45% of respondents said they could not work remotely – reported being less satisfied with their job than those working in hybrid or fully remote work settings.

Prising said that positive change like a four-day work week, which offers employees choice, means a future of work that is more flexible, more orientated towards wellbeing and more purpose-driven.

Read: Big shift expected in the workplace in South Africa

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