Got mixed feelings about working longer hours in exchange for longer weekends? One thing’s for sure: the idea no longer seems as vague and as far-fetched as it used to be. Recently, House Bill 6152 — more popularly known as the compressed or 4-day workweek bill — made waves when it passed its third and final reading at the House of Representatives. Now that the proposed law has gone to the Senate, it appears as if more Filipinos will be looking forward to TGITs instead of TGIFs in the very near future.
The passage of the compressed workweek bill reaped mixed reactions and opinions. Some expressed their excitement over the thought of having longer weekends. Others pointed out that some local companies already have 4-day workweeks, and that the bill simply adds rules that will govern that setup. A few groups maintained a skeptical stance and said that the proposed law would just encourage employers to hire contractual workers.
Just like how we treat any big business decision, we HR leaders should first take a look at the pros and cons of adopting a compressed workweek scheme before either jumping into or running away from it. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of having compressed work schedules or 4 day workweeks.
Longer, more activity or rest-filled weekends
For some, an additional 24-hour rest or leisure period is more than motivating; it’s a surefire game changer, a golden reason to stay focused during work hours. Employees won’t have to rush home during final hour of their shifts because they’ll have another day for their errands. There’s also the prospect of longer and more activity-packed vacations with family and friends. What’s more, employees will have an entire day for their hobbies, small businesses, and personal projects. Those who are involved in volunteer programs can free up a weekly spot in their calendars for full-day events.
Fewer trips to the office
The traffic situation and the transportation system in Metro Manila have made unwelcome tasks out of commuting and driving. A compressed work schedule promises another weekly break from both. It means less exposure to workweek-induced rush hours, long train station queues, bumper-to-bumper situations, and air pollution. It also means money saved on both gas and fare.
Saved energy costs
Perhaps the biggest benefit that employers can gain out of compressed workweeks is their having to cut costs on energy bills and other facility-related expenditures. Businesses and government agencies abroad reported to have saved money by closing down for three days. Increased savings, however, don’t appear to be the only benefit here. Reduced energy and fuel consumption can also lead to a cutback on carbon or greenhouse gas emissions. Compressed or 4-day workweeks make us capable of fighting climate change and saving the environment as much as they enable us to dodge stress and traffic.
An additional two hours of work per day will likely take its toll on employees whose jobs rely mostly on physical strength and stamina. This poses a clear occupational hazard especially to individuals like construction workers and cargo agents, whose safety at work can be compromised once they start experiencing fatigue. Working longer hours may also prove to be mentally draining, especially for those with functions that heavily require accuracy, attention to detail, alertness, and creativity. It’s likewise arguable whether customer-facing employees should be put on longer shifts. The stress and exhaustion that the additional hours will bring about may chip away at those employees’ alertness and eagerness to serve the people who keep the business running.
Problems in childcare and after-work activities
If there’s one group that may not end up happy under a 4-day workweek setup, it’s that of the working parents, particularly those who prefer not or can’t afford to have nannies. The series of troubles in store for them starts with the question of who will fetch their kids from school — given that they have to clock out late. There’s also the possibility of being left with no choice but to feed and take care of their children too late at night. Yes, they’ll get another day off, one that they can spend with their family and kids, but parenting and childcare are everyday deliverables. Freeing up Fridays will do very little in helping those employees make up for four days of lost time for their kids.
On the other hand, those who see work-life balance as a matter of having after-work activities may end up getting frustrated as going home very late would force them to reschedule their post-shift businesses to their new rest day.
Under a compressed work scheme, businesses that operate 24 hours a day will find it difficult to address overlaps in their employees’ shifts. This may not be a problem for big companies, but for those that do not have a choice but to work around a small headcount and budget, shift overlaps are a waste of money. They’ll be forced to allocate more time and effort in planning and creating schedules as well as employment conditions.
What about improved health and work-life balance?
Although some health experts have positively linked longer weekends with improved health and work-life balance, others have argued otherwise. For example, one study showed that employees who work long hours over many years are likely to have chronic diseases later in life. Given the differences among research findings and opinions of health specialists, it’s hard to tell whether compressed or 4-day workweeks can really improve both health and work-life balance.
It seems safe to say, however, that such schedules are not for every job role, business, and industry. It also remains to be seen whether they jive well with our work culture and work ethics. At best, House Bill 6152 makes it clear how we should implement compressed workweek schemes. If it becomes a law and if the opportunity to decide (i.e. whether to adopt a compressed workweek scheme or not) comes our way, we HR leaders should primarily consider two things: our business goals and our employees’ welfare.