Subscribe

Hybrid workforces, new tech enable four-day workweek in SA

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 20 Feb 2024
In the first four-day week pilot, 92% of the 29 firms participating expressed interest in making the switch permanent.
In the first four-day week pilot, 92% of the 29 firms participating expressed interest in making the switch permanent.

As more South African companies sign up for the 2024 edition of the four-day week pilot, a hybrid work model and emerging technologies are key to making the new way of working a long-term reality.

This is according to industry pundits, commenting on the concept that has gained prominence over the last few years, as many companies in SA trial or switch to adopting the approach in response to the global trend, fuelled by workforce attrition.

SA’s second trial of the four-day workweek, scheduled to start in September, is expected to see hundreds of business executives and employees test a reduced hour working week, in a bid to improve workplace productivity and well-being, as well as talent attraction and retention.

The pilot programme is spearheaded by global non-profit Four-Day Week Global, which says it has supported hundreds of companies from a variety of industries all over the world to run successful trials.

Despite industry insiders expressing concerns this trend may not be feasible for all sectors in SA, Four-Day Week SA says last year’s pilot programme was a huge success, with 92% of the 29 local participating firms expressing their wish to continue to work this way going forward.

Elnatan IT Solutions, Big Beard Web Solutions, Social Happiness, Precision Vehicle and Asset Tracking, and Flux Trends are among the local firms that have introduced the reduced workweek on a permanent basis.

Panasonic, Elephant Ventures, Praytell, bit.io, Unilever and Microsoft Japan are among the global companies that have made the switch.

Theo Wilken, sales director at IT solutions firm Crimson Line, says: “A four-day workweek is becoming a very real possibility in SA. This means we can expect increasingly fluid hybrid and remote work environments, with staff checking in and attending to urgent work-related matters from wherever they are, all the time. Automation will inevitably play a role in helping organisations get more done in a shorter space of time.”

The increase in the number of people “semi-grating” to smaller and coastal towns in search of better lifestyles, means more remote and hybrid workforces across SA. This will increase organisations’ need for communications and collaboration tools that are secure, compliant and office and remote workforce friendly, adds Wilken.

The approach is premised on a work schedule in which employees typically work 32 or less hours per week, compared to the traditional 40, without a cut in pay or loss in productivity.

Resolving inefficiencies

Elnatan IT Solutions, one of the tech firms that participated in last year’s local pilot from March to August, says it fully switched over to a four-day workweek after discovering benefits for the majority of staff.

Elnatan senior solutions architect Theorich Köster tells ITWeb: Employees all reported improvements in productivity and their mental well-being, as well as being able to pursue more personal goals.

“We found inefficiencies in how we were doing things previously and are now able to streamline our processes. Technologies that are key to enabling a seamless transition include our ticketing system, which is essential for monitoring employee productivity, and our cloud PBX system enables our employees to work flexibly.

“We are also using Microsoft Teams to schedule employee shifts and keep our communications documents for handovers.”

A dedicated service desk that serves as a single point of contact to report problems, log service requests and address queries, as well as unlimited remote support from IT teams, are key enablers of the new working approach, he continues.

David-John Wayne Bailey, marketing manager of Big Beard Web Solutions, which also introduced the reduced workweek after participating in the 2023 trial, says: “The extra day off has benefitted me both personally and professionally.

“I have moved house since the pilot started and can now use the extra day off to settle in with my family, while cultivating a space that enhances my work commitments.”

Elnatan senior solutions architect Theorich Köster.
Elnatan senior solutions architect Theorich Köster.

Kealeboga Kaelo, CEO of Precision Vehicle and Asset Tracking, comments: “When we signed up for the six-month pilot, we believed a four-day week was the future of work worth exploring.

“We are happy to announce that post the pilot, this has become our new normal, our current way of work. We have adopted the four-day week on a permanent basis.

“Our staff unanimously agreed that the four-day week has significantly benefited them at individual levels since they have an extra day to attend to personal affairs. Some employees mentioned that being given an extra day to rest during the week helped them be more productive the following day.”

According to Köster, some of the challenges encountered by Elnatan and its staff during the trial were finding the right schedule for each employee that also fits the company’s needs, some employees were unable to increase their productivity to the required levels and employees selecting a different day of the week on which to take their day off.

“Some employees did not have colleagues to take over their work on off days, requiring sub-optimal schedules. We also had to monitor employee productivity closely, as well as assign shifts to always have staff in certain departments.”

A highly-secure, compliant and productive workplace is paramount, he adds.

South African trends-as-business-solution firm Flux Trends was among the first local organisations to adopt the concept in 2021.

It says the working model is an opportunity for team members to have “a day solely devoted to personal development and self-care”.

Dion Chang, founder and CEO of Flux Trends, previously told ITWeb that while more South African organisations are expected to move in this direction, it will unfold in baby steps and will likely happen in the distant future.

“It won't happen quickly, but as with all new business trends, some companies will adopt a new approach to work when they see other companies doing it.”

The second Four-Day Week SA trial will run for six months, guided by experts at Four-Day Week Global, which is conducting trials around the world. It will be underpinned by research before, mid-way and at the end of the trial – conducted by Boston College and Stellenbosch Business School.

To register for the pilot, visit the website.

Share