By Kashyap Arora
Edited by Anandita malhotra, Senior editor, The Indian Economist
Recently, iconic figures such as Mexican billionaire Slim and British businessman Richard Branson along with Larry Page (CEO, Google) and many others have been seen advocating a shift in the usual weekly working hour model. And the good news for many employees is that the new model they are looking towards is a shorter working week model i.e. adding more number of free days in a week. Looking at this one may think that only employees benefit from this shift, however if history is any proof then in such a model favors the employers as well. A very prominent figure to take the lead in this is Henry Ford, a visionary and a businessman, who though lived in an era of six working days a week was a forerunner of the shorter week model and himself benefitted a great deal from it. Going further down history it was the prominent figure, John Maynard Keynes who concluded that rapid accumulation of capital, combined with technological advances, will succeed in improving the quality of life with people no longer striving to fulfill their basic needs and increasing their leisure time. But, contrary to the above notion an opposite scenario has taken place thanks to the advancements in technology. We now see people constantly engaging with their cell-phones, laptops, tablets and any other device coming into the market; replying to that last mail or trying to improve on the next day’s presentation even at the cost of spending time relaxing or with the family.
However, there is a flipside to everything in the world including the five working days a week model. This model will only be suited to specific industries and will not encompass a wide array of industries such as hospitality, customer service, retail etc. Secondly, productivity is the key in developing economies and especially an economy such as India, which has a very high proportion of young labour along with low productivity, cannot really afford such a change. Moreover, the model will also have adverse effects on workers working on an hourly basis, as they would probably have to go searching for an additional job to supplement their income.
The conclusion to such a discussion has already been given and can be described in one phrase: “Horses for Courses” i.e. companies and employers themselves are the ones who have to decide which model is appropriate for them. Companies such as Treehouse, which is an online education company, have already put into place a four-day workweek policy, and have benefitted greatly from it. However, one thing is certain that more the flexibility in the work environment, higher the efficiency levels of employees and an increased job satisfaction level. Even if this model may be seem tougher, in the long run such a change will give the office a home like environment where creativity and efficiency would thrive and in turn increase in the overall quality of life. Thus, the need of the hour is giving work responsibly, flexibility in reaching deadlines and giving freedom to employees with respect to their approach towards the task. And to those who belong in sectors where this flexibility is difficult to provide, employers may increase their wages so as to compensate for the extra effort put in by the individual.
An economist from University of Warwick, Kashyap is an avid reader, writer, and tactician with a real zeal for economics and finance. He has also professionally represented and worked for some of the most prestigious organizations such as Standard and Poor, and HDFC. It is his passion which drew him towards “The Indian Economist”, where he aims to study aspects of Indian economic and polity scenario from a different perspective and derive more involvement from his readers, thus, laying down the foundation for a highly aware future generation.