If the pandemic has taught us anything, traditional working hours are not the only method to “get the job done”. Recent studies have proven that conventional working hours do not equate to optimal productivity. Time-based working approaches are slowly being phased out as this is largely ineffective in increasing overall employee satisfaction and achieving maximum productivity.

The intended aims of introducing this working model are endless. The goal of a four-day working week is to aid in productivity, holistically improve employer wellness, attract talent, and improve the lives of employees and the working environment.

A common misconception about reduced working hours is that salaries will also be reduced. Reducing an employee’s salary would result in breaching an employment contract. Furthermore, an employee’s salary deductions are governed under section 34 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). This legislative framework states that only certain deductions are permissible, must be consented to, and may not exceed more than 25% of an employee’s remuneration.

Studies found that two to three hours of an employee’s day are spent on meaningless tasks in the workplace; and that reducing working hours will have no bearing on the actual output. The four-day working week pilot prescribes that salaries are kept at 100%, and employees provide employers with 80% of their time. Still, all employees’ output, deliverables and commitment remain at 100%. Flexible working hours may also be beneficial to both employees and employers. Employers can quickly identify in-demand and self-motivated employees, who are then paid for their output, not for hours worked.

South Africa, a transformative country, cannot be rigid in the workplace. Employers must understand that striking a core work-life balance could ultimately contribute to employees’ morale, productivity, and overall satisfaction.

Several countries follow a four-day working week model. Findings have consistently shown that a reduction in the workday results in staff retention, appeals to employees with scarce skills, improves happiness, and decreases absenteeism. Allowing staff to arrange their working hours might be unfamiliar territory for most employers, but as seen during the pandemic, permitting staff to pave their workday does not necessarily mean that there will be any break in productivity (and, to the contrary, could potentially increase productivity).

For this model to truly succeed in a South African context, there needs to be extensive engagement with employees, as collaboration is imperative. There also needs to be a focus on adaptable policies in place and continuous management during the transitioning phase.

Article By: Cass-Leigh Oranje
Dispute Resolution Official – CEO Gqeberha