Four-Day Workweeks: The New Norm in Asia?

Image credit: iStockphoto/No-Mad

The traditional five-day workweek is gradually becoming a thing of the past in Asia. Over the last year, an increasing number of companies in the region have been experimenting with four-day workweeks, and it seems to be catching on.

According to a report by Nikkei Asia, Japan is at the helm of this change. In April, Hitachi announced that it would be giving approximately 15,000 of its employees four-day workweeks. The move was prompted by a need to better balance work and life in an otherwise "workaholic" culture and attract and retain talent.

Following Hitachi's lead, several other Japanese companies have also started experimenting with four-day workweeks.

Game Freak, the firm behind the Pokemon series, announced an optional four-day workweek, following in the footsteps of other gaming companies who have made the switch. Those who opt-in to Game Freak's new work arrangement will receive 80% of the salary they would receive for five-day weeks.

Meanwhile, Philippine authorities have also been mulling a four-day workweek for the entire labor force after several government agencies implemented the same for their employees. The consideration is being made amidst rising fuel costs.

“Each Filipino will still work 40 hours per week. But instead of five days, it will be four; instead of eight hours a day, it will be 10 hours a day,” said socioeconomic planning secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, as quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

However, in an opinion piece, The Bangkok Post's Acting Asia Focus director Nareerat Wiriyapong said that it's overdue for countries to discuss why long hours at work don't necessarily equate to higher efficiency.

"Besides good pay and benefits, having a work-life balance is a valuable aspect of a job for more employees these days. Granting workers longer weekends while keeping their productivity and pay the same could be a win-win solution for workers and companies alike," she said.

In Indonesia, Alami, a lending company, has also allowed employees to work four-day weeks since October 2021. CEO Dima Djani announced that 300 of its employees have been allowed to take Fridays off to focus on life outside of their professional roles.

"We see our employees as not only numbers. At the end of the day, they are all human beings with various needs. No one wants their job to become an additional reason for stress. We hope our employees can work happier and healthier, both physically and mentally, so they can improve their productivity and working spirit,” Djani told Salaam Gateway.

Image credit: iStockphoto/No-Mad