Gambia, a country in Sub-Sahara Africa first attempted instituting a four day work week during the tenure of President Yahya Jammeh. But this is Nigeria’s first four day work week proposal; and it is coming from Kaduna State; one of Nigeria’s north-western states. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the state Governor has said workers in the state will commence a transition to a four-day working week. He hopes this will help to boost productivity, improve work life balance, and allow them to spend more time with their families.
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye, the governor said the state government would begin implementing the transitional arrangement in the public service starting from today, December 1, 2021.
Working hours is usually from to 8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m Mondays to Fridays; but with the new proposal, all public servants, other than those in schools and healthcare facilities, would work from home on Fridays.
“This measure is also designed to reflect lessons learnt from managing the COVID-19 pandemic, which required significant relaxation of old working traditions and the adoption of virtual and remote working arrangements,” he said.
Opposition Mounts Against Nigeria’s First Four Day Work Week Proposal
But the Kaduna State chapter of the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella body of Christians in Nigeria will have none of the four days work week proposal. The Vice-Chairman of CAN in the 19 northern states and Abuja, Rev John Hayab has sent a warning to civil servants in the state. He asked them to be wary of what he described as a “Greek gift” to workers in the state.
According to Punch Newspaper, Hayab would rather want the state government to tackle the insecurity ravaging the state. He wondered how a state that is not secure could “talk about giving workers time for agriculture and to be with their families when bandits move about freely; terrorising people in their homes, on the farms and on the highways!”
The CAN leader also advised civil servants not to celebrate the policy until they were sure that there was no hidden motive behind it.
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Reasons For The Bias
Hayab’s statement continues, “The government, in justifying this seemingly innocuous decision, maintained that the policy is to boost productivity, improve work-life balance and enable workers to have more time for their families; as well as for rest and for agriculture.
“On the surface, this may appear reasonable. However, looking at the hardship the citizens of Kaduna State have been subjected to by this government through some of its unpopular policies, one begins to wonder how such a policy can be of benefit to workers, who are struggling hard to make ends meet.
“I advise civil servants in Kaduna State not to celebrate this policy until they are convinced that there is no hidden agenda behind it.
“Workers must be sure that the policy is not aimed at reducing their salaries. They must be convinced that the government will not wake up one day with the shocking news of salary reduction. Since the five working days have been reduced to four.
“Kaduna workers should also pray fervently that there wouldn’t be another mass sacking before the end of this administration, which has brought so much pain and hardship.
“How can one spend time with the family when he has nothing to feed them or provide for their basic needs?
“What Kaduna people truly need from the El-Rufai government is a holistic and honest effort to address insecurity and a true sense of democratic principles of governance with less propaganda.
“What economic value will this ‘Greek gift’ add to workers?” he said.
Cynicism and Four Day Work Week
Is a four-day work week then an Islamic proposal? Is it to give practitioners of the faith equal access to a free day of worship just like Sunday is for Christians?
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Contributing to the discourse, an online commentator to The Guardian Newspaper article on the subject said, “Well, when you produce nothing and receive allocations you never worked for, you can spend every day at home..”
But will this opposition and lack of understanding bring doom to Nigeria’s first four day work week proposal? Not likely, as the State Governor tends to carry through with his policies even in the face of oppositions.
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A Four Day Work Week – A Global Perspective
Gambia’s President Barrow Scraps Jammeh’s Four-Day Week
In 2017, Gambia’s president Adama Barrow scrapped the four-day week introduced by his predecessor Yahya Jammeh according to the BBC. He then asked public sector employees to work a half-day on Fridays. In 2013, Mr Jammeh had said the country’s mainly Muslim population should use Fridays to pray, socialise and tend to fields. Is a four-day work week then an Islamic proposal? Is it to give practitioners of the faith equal access to a free day of worship just like Sunday is for Christians?
Change to the four day work week came into effect within a week of President Barrow’s return from Senegal to assume power in 2017. He earlier went to Senegal because of fears arising from the presidential election in 2017.
Would Employees Thrive in a Four-Day Work Week?
According to Gallup, a four-day work-week structure has been a topic of renewed debate, and some organizations are reconsidering it. But is this the best way to keep and better manage their best talent? What pros and cons of implementing a four-day week should employers be aware of? And how would employees productivity, worklife balance and career thrive in a four-day work week?
Well, there are some positive to look at. In 2019, Microsoft tested a four-day workweek. This was conducted through what they called, a “Work-Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer” in Japan, with employees given five Fridays off with no pay cut. Microsoft reported that productivity, or sales per employee, climbed by nearly 40 percent compared with the previous year. Although the company indicated other factors had contributed. Power consumption fell by 23 percent, and more than 90 percent of workers liked the change.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in 2020 suggested that employers should consider flexible work options, including a four-day week. This was to help employees amid the coronavirus outbreak. And before taking her post, Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin also raised the four-day workweek concept.
Employers Open To New Ways of Working
While most countries may only be able to enjoy a four-day work week a couple of times a year around Easter, Christmas and the odd public holiday, the four-day work week phenomenon is gaining favor in some other countries. In Britain, Germany, Spain and New Zealand, governments and employers are keen on trying out new ways of working. But a DW report says it’s a bag with mixed success.
The Telegraph reports that employers in the UK show a willingness to consider a shorter working week for their employees. The study shows that one in five small businesses in the UK is already working a four-day week.
J. Bruce Tracey, a professor of human resource management at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. in an SHRM article advise employers to approach the four-day week with a data-driven lens. They should conduct a considerable cost-benefit analysis by location, job type and other factors. Since, what works for some doesn’t work for others, and different countries and companies can give mixed results in the long term.
There will be evidence that the shorter week improves productivity and morale and reduces absenteeism and turnover. Also, there will be evidence that this kind of HR policy may in fact reduce productivity and be more costly.