The Singapore parliament has been exploring the possibility of a four-day work week. The conversation was raised on 13 September by Gan Siow Huang, minister of state in the Manpower Ministry, who was in favour of this flexible work arrangement.
Gan said at the Committee of Supply 2022 speech that the pandemic has shone a light on “the importance of supporting employees’ well-being”. She said, "We have been advocating for the adoption of flexible work arrangements precisely because they are flexible and able to cater to all the varied forms of individual needs". Quoting member of parliament, Sharael Taha, she said that in addition to employees’ well-being, a four-day work week will also “allow businesses to tap on a bigger pool of workers, including seniors and differently-abled workers".
Gan stated the response following a question from MP Melvin Yong (PAP-Radin Mas) on studies being done to examine the feasibility of a four-day work week in Singapore. Gan shared that MOM is not aware of any such ongoing studies. She added that reports of four-day work week pilots implemented in other countries appeared mixed.
Many countries have already been testing out this working arrangement such as the UK, Japan, and New Zealand. In the UK, a six-month pilot programme testing out a four-day work week on 3,300 employees in 70 companies began in June. Meanwhile, in Iceland, the trials for this work arrangement took place between 2015 to 2019 by Reykjavík City Council. Researchers said productivity either remained the same or improved in most companies . The national government included more than 2,500 workers in this programme, which amounts to about 1% of Iceland's working population, according to BBC.
Closer to home, Japan, known for its long hours and tough work culture, is also giving the four-day work week a chance. Big corporations in Japan such as Panasonic and Microsoft are in favour of the flexible working arrangement. The company reported a 40% increase in productivity , reported CNBC.
Meanwhile, the advertising industry in Singapore has long had a culture of long hours and over the years, has solidified its reputation as being one with high attrition rates. Talent has been an ongoing point of pain for many leaders in this industry. With more conversations arising about the need for work-life balance and mental health, we ask industry players if a four-day work structure is possible in this rather demanding industry.
Goh Shufen, president of AAMS and co-founder of R3
As a service industry that is not on the front lines, a four-day work week, in theory, is possible under two important conditions. First and foremost, overhaul the process. We need to reduce the time wasted on iterations. Clients and agencies need to revamp their process and be clear. Effective processes can reduce time costs by at least 20%.
Secondly, we need senior people on both the client and agency sides to empower their people more. Too much time is wasted by senior stakeholders giving their two cents that are costly - not just financially but can also be morale-busting.
Ultimately, a mindset shift from master-slave mentality to a couple of goals is required in the client-agency relationship for the four-day work week to become a reality.
Pat Law, CEO, GOODSTUPH Singapore
For agencies that run on an hourly billing model and sell a huge chunk of billable hours at a discounted rate, moving to a four-day work week may be challenging. But it is not impossible.
In the first place, I never fully understood why we charge by the hour, and more as a result of the accumulation of hours. If I take half the time to produce the same deliverable, shouldn’t I get paid more for saving you time? And I think that is part of the problem - that we do not reward efficiency enough.
I am in favour of a four-day work week (calling Friday rest-day, 'Good Friday', is tempting as much as it is blasphemous) but the reality is, we need everyone who is part of our food chain to unanimously commit to it.
For example, if the government wants to champion the four-day work week, then perhaps it makes sense for all ministries to ban any pitches due in less than four weeks. Four weeks sounds like a lot of time, but the reality is, not all of us sit around waiting for a GeBIZ invitation to pitch. And it’s not just the government’s role.
Clients, suppliers, and agencies themselves have to play their parts. From being on time for a meeting to recognising that that meeting should have been an email. It’s an overhaul of the entire industry, but in the long run, I think it’s a good thing to have.
Jacqui Lim, CEO, Havas Media Group Singapore
I think it ultimately hinges on three areas: intention, expectations, and boundaries.
As employers, we need to be clear if we are implementing this as a cost management measure or as a smart avenue to gain access to talent that is otherwise inaccessible to us due to their stage in life or other personal commitments such as balancing family needs or their studies.
So yes, talent access is a huge motivation for any employer in the ad industry! With the right intention, it will set clear expectations where both the employer and employee know exactly what the other party is seeking in the engagement to ensure it bears fruit for all.
Finally, setting boundaries is the most important as expecting our staff to handle a five-day week work scope while being paid a four-day week salary isn’t equitable nor sustainable, so a lot of planning and mutual expectation management needs to be agreed upon upfront.
We also don’t have to roll this out as a blanket arrangement applicable to all staff, but we could always start with an open posture to adopting this for staff who proactively request for it due to their individual circumstances.
Paul Soon, CEO, MullenLowe SEA
I agree that a four-day work week is one of the many flexible work arrangements. We are already working in the hybrid era and this means that there is flexibility working in or out of the office and for some - from anywhere else in the world. Ultimately, productivity and effectiveness of the job cannot be affected, especially when we are in the service industry.
Whilst I can see the attraction of a four-day work week (I mean I would love to have it too!), I am still concerned by the diminishing value of the social side of being in a creative industry.
This has always been the challenge regardless of a working hybrid model or if we move to a four-day work week. It all boils down to how the entire industry can be both effective and efficient with the time we share as we aim to produce the best work to drive growth for businesses.
Joanne Theseira, managing director, Publicis Communications
Our clients already know that mentally healthy teams stay together longer, are more productive, and are more creative. We currently encourage our teams to disconnect from work every Friday afternoon - at the very least from meetings and work appointments, or more ideally to spend the time enriching their lives outside work. We started the programme during the pandemic and have found no reason to stop it.
I think a four-day work week is something to certainly consider as we deepen client trust and reset expectations together.
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