Flexibility preferred over a four-day work week: Qualtrics

  • Four-day work week could improve work-life balance, mental wellbeing
  • Long hours, frustrated customers, company performance top concerns

Flexibility preferred over a four-day work week: QualtricsAs the idea of a four-day work week continues to gain traction across Southeast Asia, a new Qualtrics study revealed that 60% of full-time employees in the region prefer the flexibility to work whenever they want over one less day at work (37%). 

For workers in Malaysia, the preference for flexibility was slightly greater, with 62% opting for it over a shorter work week (48%).  Flexibility is also a bigger driver of retention (66%) than a four-day work week (50%) in Southeast Asia, Qualtrics, an experience management company, said in a statement.

With organisations across the region continuing to refine ways of working after two years of working remotely and as leaders in Malaysia debating the feasibility of adopting a four-day work week, the Qualtrics findings highlight the importance of successfully aligning the new programmes being adopted with the needs and expectations of employees.

The survey showed for a third of employees in Southeast Asia (33%), flexibility means having control of the hours they want to work. 

Others define flexibility as having the ability to work from any location (24%), choosing the days they work (19%), or being measured by performance instead of hours (18%), the research indicated. 

Respondents from Malaysia echoed the same preferences, it noted.

While the majority of employees have a preference for flexibility if given the choice, 86% of respondents in the region are open to supporting their employer implementing a four-day work week, predominantly citing improvements to their health and wellbeing as the reasons for doing so. 

The majority of respondents, including those from Malaysia, believe a four-day work week could improve work-life balance (86%) and mental wellbeing (82%), productivity (83%), and make them feel more loyal to their employer. 

There is also a willingness to take a pay cut to work one less day a week for 60% of respondents in Southeast Asia, with those in Malaysia less willing (54%), the survey noted.

Despite various four-day work week pilots delivering proven benefits such as improvements to wellbeing in Iceland and an increase to productivity in Japan, many respondents believe there would be trade-offs. 

Almost three-quarters (72%) in Southeast Asia say they expect to work longer hours, while 58% say customers would be frustrated, and that company performance would suffer. 

However, the research stated that in Malaysia, respondents cited longer hours (68%), frustrated customers (62%), and company performance (65%) as their top concerns.

As employers navigate this shifting landscape, two key drivers of success for the new ways of working being implemented are prioritising health and wellbeing, and ensuring employees are enabled to succeed in both physical and remote environments.

This is in response to 72% of respondents revealing their job to be the main source of mental health challenges, the report noted.

While a similar volume of respondents from Southeast Asia say working remotely has had a positive (25%) and negative (25%) impact on their mental health, it was different for those from Malaysia with more local respondents pointing to a positive impact (30% positive, compared to 22% negative), it said.

Two-thirds (67%) of respondents in the region feel their career advancement will be negatively impacted if they work flexible hours.

Therefore, the combination of these findings highlight the importance of understanding individual needs within the workforce to enable employers to take targeted action that ensures no-one gets left behind. 

One potential solution to the challenges posed by new working models, according to the survey, is having employee performance measured by results rather than hours and days worked, with 89% of respondents supportive of this approach. 

In particular, it highlighted that respondents across Southeast Asia tout increased efficiency, focus, and recognition as the top reasons for doing so, while 26% expect to work fewer hours. 

An overwhelming majority of respondents also welcome their employer offering paid mental health days, with 94% saying they would be a good long-term solution to ensuring good mental health, the survey noted.

For organisations rethinking traditional ways of working, Qualtrics said the findings reveal the impact of the changes being considered and implemented.

Lauren Huntington, employee experience solution strategist, Southeast Asia, Qualtrics said among the buzz surrounding new working models, employers must not lose sight of the fact that what employees really want and have come accustomed to is the flexibility to adjust their work schedules to fit the demands of their lives.

“Increasingly, we’re seeing people make career decisions and find fulfillment in their jobs by working for organisations that truly understand and respond to their needs, and where they feel they belong,” she said.

“That’s why the most important part of any working model isn’t simply the hours or days worked - it’s being able to understand and meaningfully deliver what people want and expect to ensure everyone, including customers benefit from the transformations underway.”


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