Given the current state of the local economy it is high time we rethink how we approach our businesses or companies. It is now a common feature for businesses or companies to explore cost-cutting measures in order to stay afloat in this cutthroat operating environment. One area that is usually affected foremost is human resources. When operational sustainability is threatened businesses tend to lay off some of their workers in a bid to cut down on costs. Today I want to talk about human resources and how we have to rethink our approaches so that we stay afloat despite the ailing economy.

Could Shorter Working Days And Lesser Working Days Be The Answer?

The Microsoft Experiment

Recently Microsoft did a study in which they wanted to see how employees would perform if their working days were reduced to just 4 days a week. This experiment was done at their Japan offices and was carried out for the whole month of August. Basically the experiment entailed that the employees would only work from Monday to Thursday per week. No changes were made to their salaries. The number of employees who were part of this experiment or trial was 2300.

The CEO of Microsoft Japan remarked that he wanted employees to rest well and be even more productive despite them spending about 20% less time on their work. The results of the trial showed that employees were more productive, had more focus and were in much higher spirits. Interestingly it even emerged that the electricity bill significantly went down. Overall, productivity surged by an amazing 40%. This was just a trial and it is not yet clear if it will adopted as company policy. All the same, the findings brought out some very interesting insights.

Perpetual Guardian

In 2018 a company called Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand tried out the same approach. Their workforce of 240 employees was made to work only 4 days a week. Interestingly, the results turned out just like it did for Microsoft Japan. It is quite remarkable considering that Microsoft Japan with a workforce roughly 10 times the size of Perpetual Guardian also got the same results.

Harvard Business Review

They did a study in 2018 that also showed that shorter working days led to increased productivity. In fact, the study showed that if working hours per day are reduced from 8 hours to 6 hours productivity shoots up.

Workforce Institute At Kronos

They did yet another study last year which showed that 50% of the employees who participated in the study said that they needed 5 or less hours per day to get their job done.

The overall insights from these studies are that lesser working days and shorter working days lead to increased productivity. It also emerged that when employees have too many hours at work they tend to lose focus and that reduces their productivity. Spending less time at the work place also led to a decrease in operating costs e.g. electricity usage (as seen from the Microsoft Japan example). We have also seen that employees end up happier and more fulfilled when working shorter and lesser days. So, how can we relate this to Zimbabwe?

Implications For Zimbabwe

Most businesses are faced with a tough dilemma on how to handle their human resources. I believe these studies could serve as inspiration on possible ways to address the issue of human resources costs. By putting in place a framework of shorter working days and lesser working days they can lead to increased productivity and decreases in operating costs. The other great thing about this is that it will give employees more time to focus on other personal income-generating side hustles. Imagine an employee working from 8 am to 2 pm then they know off. Also consider that they will be working only from Monday to Thursday.

The extra time they did not have before can be motivation enough for them to quickly and comprehensively do their work knowing they will soon be focusing on other side hustles. I believe if employees can have a healthy balance between work life and side hustles they will be happier at work because they will not be feeling tied down. The question of whether to keep their salaries the same given the new framework is a no-brainer. Look, already most employees are not getting enough salaries so reducing their working hours and working days will be fair – at least that is what I think.

I am sure this is something businesses or companies can try out to see how it goes. If it has worked in other countries I am confident it can work here too. When you look at it everyone gets to benefit at the end of the day. So, what do you think about this, do you think it will work to introduce shorter working hours and lesser working days? I personally think it can work. I once worked at a certain office doing administrative work; I was only working 3 days a week and working roughly 6 hours per day. Despite that unconventional approach I was getting a lot done and even had time to help out my colleagues with their work even though they were working 5, 8-hour days a week.