A recent report by the World Health Organization positioned India as the most depressed country in the world with 6.5% of the population suffering from some mental condition. Work-related stress emerged as a major cause resulting in mental health issues like depression, burnout and anxiety among young Indians.
Average working hours of employees in India are among the longest compared to global peers with most employees working for more than 48 hours a week -- higher than the International Labour Organization (ILO)'s prescribed time-limit. With Jack Ma endorsing the 12-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week routine, the public debate for work-life balance has created a stir globally as well as in India. Organizations are debating on how employees worldwide are affected by the burnout which is resulting in decreased personal and organizational productivity.
India Inc. has also started paying attention to the mental health epidemic affecting a large part of working population in the country by prioritizing employee well-being. The businesses are keen on developing a holistic approach towards managing the workforce and creating a hassle-free environment for their most valuable asset – their employees.
With countries like Germany, New Zealand, Netherlands, Denmark introducing 4-day work week, the debate on shorter work week has become a hot topic. The agenda of a shorter week is to create and sustain a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. With short weeks the productivity should increase. Clocking hours and measuring the amount of completed work might be useful on a factory floor but they are not justified when applied to knowledge work. When an organization makes a policy to reduce the weeks to a four-day, or even three-day, week, that piece of social psychology is reset. Employees are freed to reassess their working style and the tasks they must do, without the pressure to make them last the socially mandated nine-to-five, Monday to Friday. This, though, will require a paradigm shift in approach and flexibility towards time and productivity from both the organization and the employee.
The extra day can be translated towards spending time with family, running errands, investing in hobbies which in turn will result in lower levels of stress, increased satisfaction and hike in productivity. Several large corporates are stepping up their policies for a controlled attrition rate and better employee engagement, as retaining talent is more cost-effective than the rate of hiring.
A four-day working week trial at a company in New Zealand was a hit. There was no drop in productivity and a massive increase in staff satisfaction. With a traditional mind set still prevalent, a 4-day week sounds too good to be true in India but if introduced could result in a happier, more active and less stressed workforce. A couple of pilots in India could provide valuable insights into the next big trend in the world of work and it is time to reinvent the world of work and adapt as the world of work is changing rapidly, driven majorly by the new workers coming into the business ecosystem.