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Will the Four-Day Work Week Work for Your Start-up?

There are pros and cons to working four days a week. Find out how it can work to your advantage and how to help your company adjust.

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BY Melissa G. Bagamasbad - 26 Sep 2017

four day work week

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Employees are used to working the usual 9-to-5 grind from Mondays to Fridays, but nowadays, more cities are adapting the four-day work week.

The Philippine Congress, for example, recently approved House Bill 6152 last August, allowing the four-day work week. Passed on the premise of “[promoting] business competitiveness, work efficiency, and labor productivity,” the bill now gives Philippine companies an option to “allow employees to work four days a week, but they must work up to 12 hours a day,” as stated in a CNN Philippines report. Currently, eight hours of work per day is the norm in the Philippines.

It’s a movement that’s getting mixed reviews.

Some entrepreneurs are wary that employees may feel overworked. Jai Ho, head coach at Coachman Transport Services, says that while it depends on a person-to-person basis, “there is greater chance for an employee, not used to working longer hours, to be less productive.”

A common reason employers opt to go with the four-day work week is the increasing congestion in Southeast Asian cities. Jakarta, Bangkok, and Manila, in particular, are notorious for heavy traffic, ranking among The Telegraph’s 2017 list for the “Top 10 of the World’s Worst Traffic.”

“This compressed work week may be the answer to traffic woes,” surmises Henry Motte-Muñoz, founder of Edukasyon.ph, “but it is not a sustainable long-term solution.” According to Muñoz, the additional working hours might take a toll on the human body, and result in sickness and more stress for the employee.

Manila-based Digiteer founder Paolo Rentero says that his start-up has always observed a four-day work week. “I believe it was initially due to heavy traffic during Fridays,” says Rentero, adding the set-up never affected his team’s productivity. “Our team is very results-oriented and has come to appreciate [the four-day work week] as a sort of respite from our daily commutes. This policy has even contributed to a happier culture within our company,” he says.

JC Bisnar, CEO and co-founder at Investagrams, echoes the sentiment. “We work three days in the office and we still get to achieve a lot. We focus on output and responsibility rather than sticking to the regular 8-to-5. Traffic is such a burden in the Philippines, that sometimes the two to four hours spent on the road are better spent visualizing tasks and working on it alone, regardless of location.” 

Estelle Osorio-Ople, entrepreneur at The Weekend Showroom, says the four-day work week makes sense for small retail businesses as most shops operate 10-12 hours a day. “For some employees, working longer hours in exchange for three days off for the same pay means less time spent in traffic and less money spent on transportation and food. The more flexibility businesses have for figuring out which set-up works best for their team, the better,” she relates.

Want to give the four-day work week a try? Here’s how to manage the policy effectively:

1. Communicate the policy clearly with your employees

“At the end of the day, there should be a clear line of communication from the employers to the employees to ensure that both can agree on making a better work environment and experience as possible,” says Motte-Muñoz.

It would be ideal if your employees add their input to the agreement. “From there, both the management and the employees can agree on a flexible working arrangement that will work for both parties,” he says.

2. Experiment and be flexible

After having open communication channels between employee and employer, learn to have a flexible set-up as suggested by Motte-Muñoz and Ople-Osorio.

“Businesses can experiment on implementing this work scheme and see if it is going to work with the company,” says Motte-Muñoz, adding, “Employers can build from these learnings and be able to address their employees’ needs.” 

3. Lead by example.

Daniel Olivan of Kalibrr says it’s important that the boss or manager set an example for his employees. “For example, [bosses need to] work [to meet the extended work hours] when necessary, [and] come in consistently at certain times,” he says.