A local South African group intends to conduct a large-scale experiment with a four-day workweek in the early months of 2023. The group is calling on companies across South Africa to participate in the study.
According to the group, South African firms will continue to pay their employees 100% of their salaries between February and July 2023 while only requiring them to work 80% of their typical hours.
The 4-Day Week South Africa group will provide such businesses with support and mentoring to help them make the change, as well as ongoing monitoring to track what happens. The process will include a larger academic study and confidential company-specific findings. They claim that bosses will have all the assistance and knowledge they need.
The group argues that those businesses will continue to produce at least as much as they did prior to the shift in working hours, while also saving money, maintaining employee satisfaction, and generally improving the world.
This pilot study will be the first for South Africa. However, a lot has been done in the past five years in other countries. Studies have shown that cutting a five-day workweek down to four doesn’t affect output, and a Canadian small town successfully adapted to a shorter workweek.
Even though a large experiment is still in progress in the United Kingdom, practically all of the companies engaged have already announced that they will continue to use three-day weekends going forward.
Four-day workweeks are getting more popular as more well-known organizations, including Panasonic and Microsoft in Japan, reported a stunning increase in productivity.
Stellenbosch Business School is the academic force behind the trial’s impact assessment. Other key organizations behind this pilot study include Growthpoint Properties, which is a major player in the South African real estate market.
The benefits of a four-day week
A four-day week has been reported to give small businesses a significant advantage when competing with global giants for the best candidates, in some cases, doubling the number of applicants. A four-day workweek may mean the difference between a negotiated salary and a bidding war. People who have the freedom to choose where they work tend to think twice about companies that offer such flexibility.
Common findings in studies on the four-day workweek have shown a decrease in stress and burnout, as well as a decrease in sick days.
Businesses that adopt a four-day workweek frequently discover that their employees considerably increase the amount of time they devote to volunteering for deserving causes.
There is a compelling environmental case to be made because staff carbon emissions are significantly increased when travel time is cut in half. Additionally, it will ease traffic for everyone else.
A four-day workweek may reduce the amount of electricity and water used by the company and its infrastructure, relieving pressure on public services.
Proponents, particularly single moms, argue that working one fewer day per week helps level the playing field between men and women with children.
In addition to improving their own mental health, those who work fewer hours tend to spend more time with their pets, which results in happier cats and dogs.
There is optimism that four-day workweeks will increase employment at little to no additional expense, albeit there is no confirmation of this as of yet in an economy like South Africa’s.