Companies say they are open to flexible hours to boost productivity but are still hesitant when it comes to four-day workweeks.
The four-day workweek is a relatively new idea. In Japan, it began as an experiment, when the technology giant Microsoft decided in 2019 to offer its employees the opportunity to work from Monday to Thursday for a month, and without reducing their salary.
According to the World Economic Forum, 92% of the company’s employees took up the challenge. The results were better than expected: an increase in sales by 40%, a reduction in electricity consumption by 23%, and printing on paper by 59%.
Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand is another case. The family planning company offered a shorter work week to its 240 employees. Seeing that the objectives were met in less time, the firm decided to turn this day into an internal policy.
Spain is not far behind. The 181 employees of the Software Delsol company began 2020 with a four-day workday. To achieve this, and not neglect its clients, 25 more people were hired and work was done in blocks of four rotating days, with a daily shift of 32 hours.
And something similar happened in the United States. The specialized cybersecurity company Signifyd launched a pilot program in 2021 for talent to work four days a week. The result: 75% sales growth and less burnout.
Emily Mikailli, senior VP of people operations at Signifyd, details that it took around 10 months of work to test the scheme, receive feedback, see the results and launch the program in the rest of the countries where the firm operates, including Mexico.
Clarification: The 10 months of testing the four-day workweek initiative was not confined to the United States. The pilot started with Signifyd’s research and development team, expanded to the entire company, and ultimately in March 2022 became a permanent schedule.
Challenges to implementing the 4-day week in Mexico
The short-week model is beginning to resonate with other companies operating in the country. The telecommunications company Telefónica, for example, will offer its employees the possibility of working four days a week, in exchange for a 12% salary cut.
And although it is an attractive day for collaborators and another alternative that adds to the flexible work schemes -which became more relevant after the pandemic- it is still far away in legal terms.
The Federal Labor Law establishes that the current working week is eight hours a day, six days a week, or 48 hours a week. In addition, each Mexican works 2,255 hours a year; the highest figure among the nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Jon Messenger, leader of the Working Conditions Group of the International Labor Organization (ILO), warned that to implement this day in the country there must first be a regulatory change and the companies would have to carry out pilot tests.
“Companies must be willing to accept a reduction in working hours, without modifying the salary. It is not advisable that the daily shifts be 12 hours, due to the greater risks to the health of the workers and to safety in the workplace. Shorter work hours can encourage employees to use their energy more efficiently,” he said.
Despite this and the fact that mobile technologies have promoted more flexible work policies, 44% of Mexican workers believe that their employer will never be willing to implement these reduced weeks, according to the study ‘The Future of the Working Week’, carried out by the multinational Citrix in nine countries, including Mexico.
In turn, 51% consider that this shift will not happen in the short term, while 74% feel closer to a six-day workweek than a four-day one. For Saskia de Winter, founding partner and general director of Saskia de Winter Training, this occurs due to the cultural roots that organizations have in the country.
“There is a resistance in organizations because not all of them are ready for that. Neither in its processes, nor in its internal communication, and this includes both employers and employees. Although there is greater openness to flexibility, it is still not clear to them how to be more efficient. The companies in other countries that have managed to cut their working week are because they are already at another level of maturation. That’s the difference,” she mentions.
Mónica Flores, president for Latin America of the human capital firm Manpower, assures that neither four-day workweeks nor other work schemes are for everyone because the interests of individuals are determined by a combination of circumstances, attitudes and aspirations. . “It also depends on the industry you work for and the duties of each position,” she says. In the fight to retain talent, companies in Mexico are betting on:
Home Office. Given its advantages such as autonomy in work schedules, greater productivity, resource savings, and work-life balance, the Federal Labor Law was reformed to regulate remote work. But, among its disadvantages is that, if there is no established order, the collaborator can decrease their productivity or work longer than in the office.
Short Fridays. It is becoming more and more common for Fridays to work part-time or fewer hours than the rest of the week. Some organizations create a more relaxed work environment on this day, allowing casual dress and offering snacks and even beers.
Defined jobs. By project, seasonal, temporary and in collaboration. Guillermo Bracciaforte, the co-founder of the freelancer hiring marketplace Workana, believes that technological progress has allowed companies to hire professionals from different areas, without pigeonholing them into a full-time schedule.
Hybrid model. Without a doubt, the possibility of combining the face-to-face modality with the remote modality is what is prevailing in companies. OCCMundial data indicate that 46% of Mexican employees are working under this model.
Flexible schedules. Several companies have modified their entry and exit times to avoid the travel time of workers in ‘peak hours’. Time control has also been given to the worker. Before the pandemic, in Adecco Mexico, one hour was cut from the daily workday. Salvador de Antuñano, director of Human Resources of the company, says that this decision was made jointly. But before executing it, it was carefully analyzed.
“Human resources must be studied in a unique and specific way. For a country like ours in relation to its economy, culture, people, needs and expectations of foreign investment, it is very risky to make changes in mindset for doing so. Thinking of four-day workweeks, for example, if the national economy were more developed, we would already have success stories”, he commented in an interview.