WHENEVER the government proposes an idea that seems innovative and progressive, people become skeptical about it, believing that there is a hidden agenda, that the true reasons are being masked. Such an idea is being put forth in a recent Civil Service Commission (CSC) memorandum, which states that government agencies in Metro Manila are encouraged “to carry out a four-day workweek to reduce the volume of traffic; increase employee efficiency and organizational performance; promote work-life balance among employees; and enhance employee engagement, morale and productivity.”
With all of those positives mentioned, it would seem that the idea of a four-day workweek would be a no-brainer, with the only questions being: Why wasn’t it implemented sooner? How fast can it be implemented?
There was a time the five-day workweek was a new idea. Since the Industrial Revolution, factories operated for six days, with the traditional Sabbath designated as a day for rest and personal time. Henry Ford, who created mass manufacturing with the assembly line, was the first to implement the five-day workweek for purely economic, and not religious, reasons. Ford thought that his employees need more time off from their jobs to do things like shopping and increasing personal consumption.
Private companies that have implemented a four-day workweek say their own experience supports the studies showing that it increases productivity, reduces employee absenteeism, and improves the employees’ morale.
But the key to success is always if the company can maintain its primary purpose of profitably servicing its customers, no matter what the business is.
The fear of the government going for this shortened schedule is that vital services would only be available four days a week, and that is not acceptable to the public. It is bad enough that government offices are closed on days that ordinary people can find time to do their business with them. But reducing that time further would be very bad.
If the program is put in place with common sense, then the public hours of government agencies, like the Land Transportation Office, would remain the same, but individual employees within the organization would work only four days.
While they have only limited specifics, the details provided in the CSC memorandum are not necessarily encouraging. Agencies, for example, could adopt the scheme, provided that the public can access its frontline services online. Too many transactions with the government eventually require face-to-face contact.
Current online transactions, though, can save a lot of time and hassle on some things, such as requesting documents that can be delivered by the National Statistics Office. Certainly, there can be a balance made between the public’s need for more access to government agencies and the ability to implement a four-day workweek for government employees.
The last time the government implemented a four-day workweek was in the early 1990s, when 12- and 18-hour rotating brownouts were occurring. We hope that a similar situation is not coming and that it is not the real reason behind the CSC memorandum.
Image credits: Jimbo Albano