The concept of a four-day work week is attracting growing interest in countries around the world, including South Africa.
“Local employers must understand the model, decide if it will work for them, and know how to implement it effectively,” says Kirk Kruger, Master Reward Specialist with the South African Reward Association (SARA).
How does it work?“The four-day work week should not be confused with the so-called compressed work week,” advises Kruger. For the latter, employees receive the same remuneration and work the same hours per week. However, they work more hours during on-days to make up their weekly total hours worked.
In contrast, a four-day work week means employees will work one day less in the week but the same number of hours per day as before. They will still receive their full salary and benefits. In essence they are being paid for outputs and not for hours worked.
Why the interest?Both employers and employees are interested in the model because it promotes a healthier work-life balance, increases motivation and has a positive effect on productivity.
On their in-week off-days, workers can take care of personal, family and lifestyle priorities, resulting in a better quality of life, mental and physical well-being, and more energy.
Who will adopt it?“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,” says Kruger.
Potential adopters are more likely to be niche organisations, such as smaller and medium-sized technology companies. Even then, they should take time to investigate its impact on their operations, possibly running a pilot programme first.
How does it compare to WFH?“Since COVID ushered it in, work-from-home has gained momentum and I think it is here to stay” says Kruger. For now, he says WFH will remain the primary focus for employers due to the flexibility and location independence it offers and will overshadow the four-day model.
However, as WFH becomes the norm, workers – especially those with scarce skills – may start looking for employers that offer both.
Is it a good way to attract and retain employees?“Absolutely. Research shows a higher level of worker engagement, so there is good reason for employers to consider it as part of their employee value proposition,” says Kruger.
It can differentiate them with in-demand and self-motivated candidates who will deliver results whether they work four days or five. And it will help retain those who appreciate the flexibility it affords them.
What do employers need to consider?It is critical that companies consider the model’s impact on operational continuity and customer engagement. This will ensure they don’t experience lapses in service delivery during peak hours due to insufficient personnel.
“This requires a high level of engagement with employees to develop effective policies, including structured communication, active change management and collaborative corrective measures,” says Kruger.
Reviewing rewardsWith careful planning, employers can make the four-day work week a new highlight of their total reward strategy. “They should consult their reward specialist to ensure their leave, overtime, pay and benefits structure aligns with this new way of working” says Kruger.