Time for a 'Less is More' work approach?

India is facing an overtime epidemic

Time for a 'Less is More' work approach? - CIO&Leader

Even with abundant opportunity for disruption, the five-day work week still continues to underpin when office work is done. A mandate from the early 20th century, this concept has persisted for several decades, even when major economists, philosophers and sociologists from around the world believe that individuals should be working less hours, more productively. Today, instead of instilling change, businesses are not scaling back and are instead, moving toward a six-day week creating an overtime epidemic in India.

However, the ambitions of businesses moving to an expanded work-week seems to have hit a roadblock, albeit temporarily, due to the current impact of novel Coronavirus. The world-wide spread the novel COVID-19 has led to most organizations closing their office premises and driving their employees to ‘Work from Home’ mode. Indian organizations are also doing the same. But will this temporary (although currently no one knows till when) virus problem and new work-mode be able to answer the lingering issue of overtime work or ‘less hours and more productive work’? Only time will tell but for now, let’s understand the changing dynamics of the working week through a Citrix study, titled The Future of the Working Week.

The study surveyed full-time office workers in India. This study presents a comprehensive overview on the premise of a four-day work week while also offering insights into how viable it would be and the likelihood of it becoming commonplace in enterprises across the globe.

An Overtime Epidemic

The survey revealed that 60% of office workers in India say that they join work-related calls, send emails or instant messages for work purposes outside of their preferred working hours, every day.  Among the causes were; work culture, desire to set an example and desire to do the extra work. However, monetary benefits emerged as the dominant cause with 34% respondents reporting that they get paid for this overtime and 34% of respondents believe that completing overtime would improve their chances of getting a promotion or a bonus.

75% of respondents feel India is facing an “overtime epidemic”.  With overtime trending upwards it comes as little surprise that around 77% of the respondents say their workload feels closer to a six-day week.

Almost half (45%) of office workers in India still believe that improved processes could help reduce the extra time overload. Some of the other prominent areas chosen by the respondents to help reduce extra time include better technology and cloud-based technology.

How likely is a four-day working week?

Although there have been several successful experiments with a four-day work week, respondents believe the reality could be a long way off with over a third (38%) stating that it’ll take at least five years for their employer to be able offer a four-day work week on the same salary as a five-day work week. While one-fifth (20%) believe that their employer would never be able to offer a four-day week.

However, a staggering 97% say they would adopt a four-day working week given the opportunity. Retaining the same pay is crucial for a four-day working week to be feasible for most individuals, and this is where the conversation often falls short of becoming reality. 62% of the survey respondents would opt for a four-day work week option only if they could keep their current salary.

Is Culture the Major Roadblock?

A notable concern, for businesses is the impact of a shorter work week on productivity and work culture. According to this research, 80% of office workers agree that a national four-day work week is not achievable because it requires a cultural shift in how we approach or define work. Having said that, organizations in India must re-look at the various ways of working that they are currently offering their employees and how this will impact productivity and work satisfaction in the future. This is especially so since 88% of respondents agree that future productivity levels will only improve if businesses embrace different ways and attitudes towards work; while 78% of the respondents agree that an outdated approach to the working week is holding back businesses from their potential productivity.

The future of the working week

A shorter working week is a matter worth pursuing for organizations especially since a majority of the survey respondents would choose that option if they had their current salary. It seems the steps organizations have made toward a more flexible work offering has been well received with 53% of office workers in India reporting that they are happy with the flexibility they already have at work. 

Even if the impetus for change is not as strong as it needs to be for Indian respondents, there is still much that businesses based here can do to move the debate forward and strive for a healthier work-life balance and better productivity. Currently, the average office worker wastes too much time on repetitive administrative jobs, while the technology exists to allow for smarter working. In the future, mobile automation technology could help to remove these jobs from an individual’s workload, freeing up to a day a week for more cognitive or creative work.

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