Could a 4-Day Work Week Succeed in Singapore?

Goh Jun Cheng

As the traditional 5-day work week gets challenged globally, what potential exists for Singapore to adopt a more compressed 4-day week to benefit workers and businesses? Let’s examine the pros, cons and feasibility.

Understanding the 4-Day Week

A 4-day work week condenses the typical 40 hours into 4 longer days rather than spreading over 5 days. Workers get an extra non-working day off per week.

Implementations vary – some do 4 x 10 hour days while others opt for 4 x 8 hour days. Firms can stagger worker rest days.

The concept aims to improve work-life balance, boost mental health, increase gender equity, and reduce unemployment through work sharing.

Would Productivity Suffer?

Opponents argue that cramming 40 hours into 4 days would hurt productivity from longer hours and fatigue. Employees may rush tasks to finish early.

But studies of 4-day pilots actually show the vast majority of companies maintain or even increase productivity. Workers waste less time, collaborate better, and maximize effort in the compressed time.

For suitable roles, employees also report higher morale, engagement, creativity and output when given that valuable extra day off.

Potential Benefits for Singapore

Done right, benefits of a 4-day week for Singapore could include:

  • Happier, more loyal employees if three-day weekends become standard
  • Increased gender equality as women handle childcare and elderly duties
  • Ability to take on a side hustle, course or passion project with the extra day
  • Reduced unemployment if firms stagger rest days and hire more part-timers
  • Fuel domestic tourism industry if citizens have more time for local trips

Implementation Challenges

However, adopting 4-day weeks nationally poses obstacles in Singapore’s productivity-driven culture:

  • Would require shift in mindset for a society used to presenteeism
  • Service sectors like hospitality and healthcare would struggle with staff shortages
  • Labor laws would need adjusting along with HR policies on benefits
  • Schools and childcare would need realignment to match parents’ off days

Could a Hybrid Approach Work?

Rather than mandating it outright, Singapore could encourage 4-day trials through incentives and productivity research.

Firms could stagger teams on 4 vs 5 day schedules to test benefits before large-scale adoption. Employees could get one 4-day week per month.

The future of work remains flexible. Singapore should continue re-evaluating the optimal blend of productivity and work-life balance as a next-generation economy.

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