A few days ago, PS Golay, the newly-appointed Chief Minister of Sikkim, took charge of the office at Tashiling state secretariat and announced a five-day working week for state government employees.
They can utilise the additional day to take care of themselves, and their family’s health, the CM told reporters.
As soon as the announcement was made, it went viral on social media platforms, and millennials across the country demanded a similar policy via memes.
Jokes apart, it is time to seriously consider countless studies and advice from experts who suggest that working beyond productivity hours can take a toll on your mental and physical health.
Two experts at this year’s World Economic Forum’s meet at Davos in Switzerland grabbed a lot of eyeballs after they said that the number of working days in a week should be reduced to just four.
“In the 1920s and 1930s, there were major capitalist entrepreneurs who discovered that if you shorten the working week, employees become more productive. Henry Ford, for example, discovered that if he changed the working week from 60 hours to 40 hours, his employees would become more productive, because they were not that tired in their spare time,” said Rutger Bregman, an economist and historian.
Many studies and academicians have also backed this claim.
For example, the Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated global survey examined around 3,000 employees from eight countries, including India.
To no one’s surprise, India turned out to be the hardest-working country with a whopping 69 per cent of full-time employees saying they would still work five days a week even if they had the option to work fewer days for the same pay.
“It’s not surprising to see that the survey reflects an aspiring young India seeking more opportunities to acquire a new skill, unlearn or relearn if they find the spare time or added time as a key getaway. It’s rather intriguing to see that they might put off a family vacation and instead put in those extra hours to acquire a new skill or certification,” Kronos Incorporated country manager, India, James Thomas told the Hindu Business Line.
However, the same survey also highlighted that with ‘more time’ in hands, professionals in India would learn a new skill or pursue a hobby followed by engaging in entertainment activities like music or movies.
“In your early 20s when you are constantly looking to participate in new experiences, just one day a week to yourself is not nearly enough,” says Aakash Bhadoria, a former Project student at BHEL Corporate R&D in Hyderabad.
Working for long hours also has an impact on our mental and physical well-being.
Research has linked sitting for long periods of time to several health concerns, including obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. It also increases other health risks like diabetes and leg disorders.
As for mental health, risks include sleep disturbance, hypertension, anxiety and depression are likely to increase. Not only this, mental health issues in the workplace can also negatively impact the productivity of an individual along with the organisation.
Elaborating on this, Bengaluru-based psychologist Hema Sampath tells The Better India,
In most western countries, even working for five hours per day is considered to be more than enough for 100% productivity. High-stress levels decrease one’s productivity levels and functionality. Not meeting demands or completing tasks further increases stress. It is like a vicious circle.
When asked how employees and corporates can improve their office lifestyle to curb stress levels, Sampath listed out a few measures:
1) Prioritise your work. Make an everyday plan and utilise your time judiciously.
2) Take regular breaks and walk a few steps.
3) Eat your times on time and do not skip any meals.
4) Seek help or guidance if anxiety or depressive symptoms are affecting your work.
We spoke to the HR Manager of a Bengaluru-based organisation, who also agrees with the concept of 5-day work week.
“As per the law, one is required to work around 8 hours every day. However in a city like Bengaluru the hours extend to 12 due to traffic problems. This commute is not considered and hence we spend more hours for work,” he says.
Having worked as an HR professional for over 10 years, he believes that breaks are an essential component as they re-energise the mind and body.
“Longer hours can hamper the productivity and morale of the company and individual. Hence, a two-day off is vital for productivity to be sustainable,” he adds.
With experts from different fields agreeing on a two-day off policy, it is time for organisations to introspect and revise their policies before an irreversible damage takes place. On an individual level, we must learn to strike a balance between our professional and personal life.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)