Categories: Business NewsNews
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2023-12-02 7:58 AM

South Africa’s 4-Day Workweek Pilot Yields Surprising Success

  • Positive Impact: The pilot showcased significant benefits for both employees and employers, including increased well-being, productivity, reduced resignation rates, and improved work-life balance.
  • Challenges Faced: South African companies encountered difficulties in achieving the targeted 20% reduction in work hours. Issues arose regarding the handling of public holidays, planning time, partial implementation, and management hurdles.
  • Success Factors: Despite challenges, successful implementation of the 4-day workweek demands robust management commitment, meticulous planning, leadership involvement, and enthusiastic employee participation.
By Miriam Matoma

South Africa’s inaugural 4-day workweek pilot, launched on March 1, 2023, has recently disclosed its outcomes. While yielding promising improvements in well-being, it confronted distinctive hurdles in adapting to this innovative work structure.

4 Day Week South Africa conveyed, “Contrary to initial doubts, this pilot in a developing nation – the first in Africa – showcased significant advantages for both workers and employers.”

The model advocated full pay for 80% work commitment, demonstrating 100% output. This initial pilot involved 28 South African companies and one from Botswana, spanning diverse sectors like tax, marketing, employment services, and IT.

Participants praised the experience, rating it an impressive 8.0 out of 10, with 92% committed to continuing or contemplating the 4-day workweek.

“Employees cherish their extra time so much that 51% demand a 21-50% pay hike to revert to a 5-day week. Additionally, 13% adamantly refuse to return to the traditional 5-day formula,” emphasized 4 Day Week.

Key highlights from the trial encompass:

  1. A commendable 10.5% average revenue boost among companies during the trial.
  2. Nearly half (49%) of employees reported heightened productivity.
  3. An 11% reduction in resignation rates.
  4. Reduced sick leaves and personal days, with a 9% drop in absenteeism.
  5. One-third experienced decreased work stress, while burnout rates decreased for 57% despite increased workload for 31%.

Professor Mark Smith from Stellenbosch Business School hailed these outcomes, stating, “The 4-day week remarkably benefits both employees’ well-being and organizational productivity.”

However, challenges persisted:

South African companies struggled to achieve the 20% reduction, managing around a 12% cut in work hours while maintaining full productivity.

The companies devised innovative approaches to meet the 20% target by adopting unconventional days off, splitting days, or restructuring office hours across the week

Several companies encountered difficulties accommodating public holidays within the model, leading two entities to terminate the trial prematurely.

Challenges highlighted by participating companies encompassed:

  1. Limited planning time hindering smooth transitions.
  2. Partial implementation for specific employees or departments.
  3. Management issues regarding leave arrangements and post-trial adaptations.

4 Day Week acknowledged that while transformative, the 4-day week isn’t a universal fix. It requires robust management commitment, planning, and employee buy-in to succeed.

As many organizations persist with the 4-day week and others await top-level approvals, monitoring their trajectory will be intriguing.

The organization concluded that for a successful implementation, organizations need dedicated planning, leadership, and a unified commitment from all stakeholders.

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Miriam Matoma

Miriam is a freelance writer, she covers economics and government news for Rateweb. You can contact her on: Email: miriam@rateweb.co.za Twitter: @MatomaMiriam