(3+1) Day Workweek

    • Vivek Oruganti, Research Associate at Kautilya School of Public Policy.

I have a dream that we all should work four days or less. It isn’t a distant dream; it is coming soon. Just a few changes in the industry, laws, working habits, culture, financial implications, maybe the government, and lastly, more automation so that they do my work and I can relax. Is that even possible??? and my speech at the Procrastinators Association, along with the quiet afternoon nap, evaporated just like that with the call of a colleague.

It’s time we focus on a (3+1) day workweek, where we can work three days in-person and the remaining flexible day to work from home (WFH) as needed. The overall thought of machines helping us automate tasks since the Industrial Revolution 1.0 was to reduce our burden and get more free time. While functions are being automated and the Industrial Revolution is evolving towards 4.0, we are working more than before. Is it because we like to work more? Or, is it because we’ve set such standards? Most public sector and private sector organizations in India officially work in the range of 40-50 hours, while the actual work goes beyond that. In some sectors, it is indistinguishable between work and non-work hours.

Automating and streamlining tasks is a daily task personally and professionally. Some of the gadgets which we use today (to call, text, listen to music, take photos, record videos, see time, and more) are being done by a single device itself. Rather than use it and get more time for our own self, we are self-absorbed by it, where we have devoted more time to it. The same goes for our work. During my short stint at a global finance organization, I streamlined a particular process to save 8+ hours each week for our team, which had a ripple effect on other teams on the same and higher level. Ironically, rather than having these 8+ hours being reflected as “free time”, it was instead consumed by taking another process to streamline.

Maybe it’s the work, and we like to work. Not really. My stay in the U.S. showed me strict boundaries between work and personal life, where no work gets discussed over the weekend. Professors don’t reply to emails, companies don’t answer calls, and work spill over to weekends is unusual, this has changed due to the work from home during the lockdown but is now gradually reverting to the same standards as before March 2020. Some could say I was stretching it but afternoon naps are the norm in some European countries. Although comprehensive research is not yet available, certain studies showed a nap time of fewer than 30 minutes enhanced productivity.

While some may argue that this is possible only in some sectors, we need to make a beginning.

So does fewer workdays also means less pay the answer for that could be ‘laissez faire’ where the market decides it. Also, lesser work time allows people to focus and complete tasks with dedication. As Irma Kurtz said, “givers have to set limits because takers rarely do” If provided, some works can take 3 days or even 30 days to complete. Working for fewer days keeps us in constant time-check to complete tasks on time. Also, not to waste time on meetings which consume the collective and individual time of everyone. 5 minutes wasted in a meeting of 12 people is 1 hour wasted for all.

What do people do with more time? To spend time for themselves, their family, community, passions, hobbies, etc. A luxury that only a few are having right now. Maybe it expands industries like tourism or creates new industries on ways to indulge in a 3-day break. Capitalism is creative and self-motivated to expand in this arena. This would be on the top of the agenda for my next meeting with the Procrastinators Association (if anyone even turns up).

P.S. – Inspired to write by reading the article “People are working longer hours during the pandemic” from The Economist


*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.