4-Days Work Week: Is That What Employees Really Want?

The idea of 4-days work week continues to gain traction in Malaysia, with JPA forming a special task force to study that. Isaac Song came across a blog post from Qualtrics that surveyed over 1000 full time professionals in South East Asia, and surprisingly most of them are against the 4 days work week, and would rather opt for flexibility for working whenever and wherever they want instead.

Malaysia’s Perspective on 4-Days Work Week

Specifically in Malaysia, the preference for flexibility was at 62%. This denotes that most Malaysians preferred working at a more flexible hours (ie. able to start working mid-day to night as opposed to early morning to evening). The same survey too suggests that flexibility drives better retention rate (which is translated as a potential power action plan on attrition rate). This study highlights the importance of re-aligning company strategy and culture to the new needs and expectations of employees in a post-COVID era.

The flexibility here could have a couple of definitions. One being working from any location (read more here), choosing the day they work, or even measuring work output as opposed to working hours. 

There are certainly many benefits for a 4-days work week. According to this blog post, the benefits include motivational factors and better work-life balance, as compressed or reduced hours means employees would have more free time for themselves. Microsoft on the other hand, has highlighted that productivity boosted to over 40% during the 4-work days experiment. It is worth highlighting however, that in the Qualtrics survey there are concerns that a four-day work week would likely frustrate customers. Therefore it’s important to look at the impact from both side of the coin.

What Employee Prioritize: Work Life Balance & Hybrid Work Flexibility

As leaders navigate this shifting landscape, Isaac Song predicts that there will be two key drivers to success that will be an immediate win. The first would be to be prioritizing work-life balance to ensure health and wellbeing, and concurrently setting employees up for success in workplace flexibility. 

Isaac Song previously wrote about Malaysia being one of the most overworked countries here, and this hasn’t changed since. There are 3 immediate impacts of this: employee burnout, legal concern (Malaysia is in hot water over forced labor and has since taken many actions to rectify that), and lastly brand concern – no leader wants their company to be known as one that works overtime the whole year. The immediate solution for this is such that leaders can implement an employee assistance program to help employees disconnect from work more effectively, and concurrently introduce a new leave type – Mental Health leave.

Another priority to be taken note of, is for employers to look into hybrid work flexibility and setting up employees for success. No employees can work fully remote all the time, and employees are very well aware that they will need to have some presence in the office to collaborate with other team members. What leaders can do is to create a remote work agreement and clarify the intentions in order to create buy-ins from all relevant stakeholders. Isaac Song is currently researching the success stories of many remote workplace organizations, and will be updating this space in near future so do stay tuned.

Conclusion

While this study has certainly provided some clarity over how a 4-days work week is being viewed by employees, leaders need to keep in mind that they are general indications and could not be generalized to the whole population. In general, to develop a system that works, leader must continually gather feedback from the bottom-up to understand what drives productivity and what drives great customer service. 

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