Microsoft’s four-day work week idea will be good for Indians⁠— but there is a lot to be fixed before that


  • Recently, Microsoft experimented with four-day work week in Japan and witnessed a 40% surge in productivity.
  • But for the same to be implemented in India, there are multiple other issues that can be fixed to improve productivity.
  • However, a recent survey by Kronos Incorporated showed that Indians would choose to work five days a week, even if they are paid equally for working four days.
  • Indians feel the most pressure to extend their work hours to grow professionally.
Microsoft recently experimented with four-day work week in Japan and witnessed a 40% surge in productivity.

But for the same to be implemented in India, there are multiple other issues that can be fixed to improve productivity. The biggest issue of them all is that almost 80% of people in India are employed in the informal sector and small, proprietary businesses.

Small businesses with limited resources end up stretching their existing employees beyond what would be fair. Most people end up working six days a week, and sometimes even more⁠— either to meet their own requirements or that of the business.

Salaried, corporate employees, with fixed weekly holidays, form a very small portion of India’s total workforce. But both sections of the society face similar challenges when it comes to their work ⁠— most of their day is consumed by their work and earning their livelihood.

Yet, as India moves towards more organised employment, some of the basic characteristics of having a job in India must change before the country at large, can debate the possibility of a four-day week.

Commute time
The commute time is the biggest buzzkill there is in India.

The commute time is the biggest buzzkill there is in India. An average Indian office-goer spend over two hours in commute everyday — accounting for 7% of their day. And the worst of all days is Monday which has the highest average commute time, according to a survey by MoveInSync. By the time a person reaches office⁠ — after having battled the choking crowd of a train, or the endless traffic jam on the road, through the sweltering heat or the water-logged streets, delayed by the bus, denied by the cabbies⁠— the energy and enthusiasm for a long day’s work is significantly worn down.

Reducing the commute time and making it easier will need better infrastructure, better roads and less traffic, and better public transportation.

That is another reason why a four-day work may make sense.“If this itself is brought down by a day, the levels of motivation will increase. Employees may even be willing to put in additional hours in 4 days rather than travel the additional day,” Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice President, TeamLease Services told Business Insider India.

The other solution to this is to allow people to work remotely whenever possible. In recent years, flexible work timings, remote work options have been the top priorities of the Indian workforce, while considering a job opportunity. And organisations in India are embracing the change, but very slowly.

End long meetings


Indian offices are infamous for endless meetings that eat into the time for action.

According to audit firm, KPMG it’s not the number of hours but the impact of work within the working hours. “When you have less time to work each week, you’re more mindful of how you utilize it with work colleagues and personal relationships. This will lead to shorter, and better run meetings at the workplace. So you don’t end up wasting time on ‘I thought you said…’” said Unmesh Pawar, Partner and Head, People, Performance and Culture, KPMG in India.

Reskilling before shorter weeks

Is this the time for a four-day week in India? A recent UNICEF report said that over the next decade, half of the youth in South Asian countries will not be able to land a decent job due to lack of relevant skills.

Reskilling of employees is yet another concern of companies across sectors. The advent of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud, devOps, and big data will demand professionals to re-skill themselves every 3-4 years so as to evolve in a competitive working environment, Zairus Master, CEO Shine Learning told the Economic Times.

“There are multiple parameters to enhance productivity along with the four day week such as upskilling employees, strong performance incentive policies. While there is no defined data points in India yet, there are few companies that already have moved to a four day week model and are able to achieve their goals effectively,” Sharma added.

This is not a concern just for the employers, even employees feel the pressure of being inadequate at times. A survey by Kronos Incorporated showed that Indians would choose to work five days a week, even if they are paid equally for working four days. Three in every five respondents said that they will utilise the time to enhance their skill sets or acquire certification.

Paid holiday?

Additional paid holiday can allow time to employees to upskill themselves, thereby increasing the motivation of employees directly. This includes short term courses, online learning programmes.

“In an ideal world, these three-day long weekend could also be utilized to apprentice with someone to be able to learn a new skill. Five hours a week — which is equivalent to 20 hours per month — is a good duration to learn a new skill,” she said.

“It is important that employers address their employees’ health holistically—both for their own good and for the good of their organisation,” Pawar added.

However, in India, employees find it difficult to even take the leaves that they are entitled to. A recent survey showed that over 40% of Indian employees are stuck with pending work.

The mindset

The implementation will require a ‘social change’ across hierarchies including the top management. Bhajneet, who is an independent talent advisor for startups said that almost 43% of organizations in the propelled economies offer employees a consolidated workweek choice.

Indians feel the most pressure to extend their work hours to grow professionally, the survey added.

“The competitive gene in the Indian mindset may cause this system to collapse unless we define clear ways to implement the four days work week and alter the orthodox mindset of managers who may tend to measure performance in quantity rather than efficiency,” Anne Soumya, Director HR of the Adecco Group India said. Adecco Group is a fortune global 500 company, which is into staffing and temporary hiring.

Given the existing gaps, it may be a while before India Inc warms up to the idea of a four-day work week.

See also:
Microsoft experimented with a 4-day work week in its Japan office, and productivity jumped by 40%

Indians were asked what they would do in their free time if they could work for four days a week — and their answers are unexpected
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