How would a four-day work week in Singapore look like?

Are Singaporeans resting enough?

For the last five years, the topic of a four-day work week has at least come up once, and this year is no surprise. In 2021, Singapore emerged as the most fatigued nation in the world, clocking in a fatigue score of 7.20, while coming in second was Mexico, with a score of 7.01.

Jialat. How ah?

Four-Day Work Week Idea: Not New

During the Fortitude Budget debate in 2020, then-Nominated MP Mohamed Irshad proposed to move away from the traditional five-day work week to a four-day work week, with the option of working from home on the fifth day. A flexi-hours work model was also one of the proposals.

The proposal resembled my organization’s current work model – three days in the office and two days work-from-home. I enjoy the flexibility of choosing my starting time in a staggered hours model as well. All is well as long as you clock the hours and do the work required.

This system at my workplace is still currently in place despite the government’s easing of safe management measures (SMMs) to allow all workers to return to the workplace from late April 2022. Before I get attacked for ‘flaunting’ my privilege, I do recognize that not all occupations enjoy this kind of flexibility that I enjoy.

Companies experiment, but reactions are mixed.

Some companies in Japan and New Zealand experimented with the idea, implementing a four-day work week in different ways. One company gave a day off for a total of 32 hours per week, while some others maintained a 40 hours per week but condensed it into four days.

The results that these companies reported were surprising (to them at least). All companies saw improvement in employee productivity and engagement, saving costs for employees, and had less turnover.

The employees in these companies who were in the four-day work week experiment however weren’t that happy. Some reflected greater stress and pressure to get things done and preferred a longer runway to complete their work. Another ‘camp’ of employees felt less stress and had better work-life balance.

This experiment was not suitable or realistic for all industries either: customer-facing jobs that required on-demand customer service found it especially difficult in juggling employee welfare and operational requirements.

Frontline, especially emergency workers such as paramedics, police officers, and firefighters would be unable to follow such schedule, simply owing to the nature of their jobs.

The way forward?

A one-size fits all solution is simply impossible. If employees cannot enjoy a four-day work week, perhaps they can be compensated in other ways, such as enhancing their existing welfare and privileges at work to make working a more enjoyable endeavour.

Famous economist John Maynard Keynes envisioned in 1930, that people in 2030 will be working 15-hour work weeks without radically reforming radicalism. Looks like we’re still pretty far from his vision.

If you were given the option of a 4-day work week while meeting your KPIs? Would you take it up? Why or why not? What other (radical) proposals do you have in mind that no one has surfaced?

About Author

A young Singaporean concerned about issues workers face. As humans, we spend a third of our lives sleeping and recharging, and another third for our personal life, and the last third at work (based on a 24-hr distribution). That's why we should pay attention to issues surrounding work.