New work week is a ‘trend’ | Daily News

New work week is a ‘trend’

If the country is to opt for a four day working week on principle, that is quite apt considering the trends worldwide, but our four day work week has been mandated by exigencies. Perhaps it is not in the best interests of the economy, especially in the context of the prime minister saying that the country’s entire economy has collapsed.

However, Sri Lanka is forced to opt for a four day work week. There are many adjunct incentives that go with the four day work week that have been granted to office workers. They are encouraged to contribute to the grow more food drive, and are also told they could be granted paid leave if they work two jobs, one of them being a job abroad preferably.

Such innovation is special, but can what is mandated by necessity also be synced with the global trends of today? Is it possible that the four day work week, for instance, is made permanent in the future when the dust settles on the current economic meltdown?

It may be too early to speculate on what may happen, but it is possible to psychologically prepare office workers to get used to the idea that productivity does not mean continuous and rigorous labour. In any event the speculation is that the IMF would probably mandate drastic cuts in the government servants’ cadre.

If that is the case, it is also possible that State sector productivity would have to be geared to be in line with modern trends in the workplace, which underscore productivity sans intensive labour. In New Zealand for instance, without any economic meltdown, the Prime Minister there, Jacinda Arden, introduced the four day work week. This sort of step is taken in full recognition of the fact that modern day technologies allow for more leisure for workers, making them more productive in the final analysis.

There are also the other positive beneficial aspects of a shortened work week. Workers are encouraged to be more productive in their own time and this presumably would lead to societies that have people making a more wholesome contribution to the national effort. They may innovate on their own in their spare hours, and discover better technologies for instance.

It is the mindset that matters. At the moment the collective national psyche in this country is also traumatized by the crisis that we are experiencing as a nation. The four day work week is approached from this mindset, by both the administrators and the workforce.

It’s not exactly the recommended way to start a four day work week experiment, but that would be beside the point if the people of this country are able to adapt to changes that come from necessity, with a positive mindset.

Necessity knows no law they say, and in this context, the aphorism can be given new meaning. We are opting for a four day work week in order to grow more food and conserve scarce resources such as fuel in these extremely difficult times. That’s called necessity. But such necessity may not also know conventional wisdom. The best results in other words could come from the worst of circumstances.

The people may take to the new innovations in a not too selfless spirit, but that may be a good outcome. Sacrifices are what are being called for in this dark hour for the nation.

But a four day work week may not be a sacrifice, it can be argued, because the government servants would end up doing less work for the same salary. But if they look at the four day work week as an opportunity to be entrepreneurial in spirit, they may say goodbye to the government job by the time this negative phase of the economy ends.

It would be the win-win situation that pleases everybody — employee, and employer. The employer, in this instance, the government of Sri Lanka, may in any event be forced to drastically downsize the State employee cadre.

If employees grow out of the five day work week habit of being dependent on the government, and the State sector salary and perks, that would be a better result than the government ever bargained for.

Stranger things have happened. The argument here is that the five day work week precluded government servants from discovering themselves, because they were required to give virtually all their productive time to those who expected them to perform almost as automatons in their work.

But whatever the exigency that required a four day work week, it would perhaps release workers from the trap of being worn out by the demands of the job. It would be as if a punitive sentencing had just been made lighter, and more bearable.

The planners should take this aspect more seriously perhaps and commission research on the modern trends associated with a four day work week. It is true we need this adjustment for survival — but we can make it the prize we won for having done the best thing, even though for the second best reasons.



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