Many would express surprise, dismay, and a dismissive attitude at the mere thought of having a four-day workweek. Although the working patterns of today’s job requirements are drastically different from the previously mundane, industrialisation-induced monotonous physical work, with the advent of social media and better global connectivity, the hunt for talent is fiercer and more competitive.
As the population ages, skilled employees would be hard to find as robotics and Artificial Intelligence (Al) dominate their presence. But is Pakistan ready for it? Invariably, Pakistan’s cultural precedence stems from a deep-rooted master-slavery relationship. Most Pakistanis, who can barely read and write in English/ Urdu, are employed in arduous, laborious work involving heat, sweat, muscles, and physical exertion.
Complacency notwithstanding, their employers already complain about the lack of efficiency, callous attitude, and work ethics while ignoring the bare minimum wages of $100/month or below.
Many offices are still not receptive to giving Saturdays off, let alone an even shorter workweek. It’s time to study the impact.
Dozens of countries such as the UK, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, etc. are experimenting. Not surprisingly, most companies have reported much higher employee morale and teamwork. Employees feel more comfortable, experience empathy from employers, and exhibit signs of higher productivity in several cases.
Also read: Four-day week liked by UK employers in world’s largest trial
In other organisations with mechanical or non-insightful tasks, it is easy to see adverse impacts as work gets delayed and the need for more employees arises. There are concrete examples of scheduling issues, extra work stress, and of course, unsuitability for several organisations.
Employees are surveyed to have been more receptive to working four days with extra hours at the same salary than working four days with the same hours and lesser salary.
That implies that initially, employees may not want to take pay cuts, although it may reduce expenses for some employees and employers alike. The new generation would surely prefer such flexibility in their increasingly important work-life balance, and so would working mothers.
The true efficacy of such a model requires the optimisation of the four days at work while having some accessibility and remote work undertaken during the “off week.” Technically, there is no “weekend” for employees. However, they are allowed to spend more time pursuing education, hobbies, other part-time jobs, and quality family and friends’ time. Modem tech companies, software houses, consultancies, strategy houses, and other FMCCs may feel more productive with such calibrations where the implicit “available offline” is understood, and employees take full responsibility for their work.
Pakistan is going through economic, political, and social turmoil already. Not many conglomerates may want to reinvent the wheel with their employees.
Nevertheless, with additional bottom line compression and the need to attract top talent, someone would take the lead. It’s hard to break a “seth” oriented culture that demands impressing the bosses in a sub-continent still reeling from an imperial slavery mindset.
China also witnessed upheaval over the 9-9-6 policy of working 2.2 hours a day for six days a week, but as the nation gets richer, the marginal utility for an extra dollar declines. Pakistan already has too much unemployment, maybe it is worth a shot.
The writer is an independent economic analyst