Home big read The Big Read in short: Is a 4-day work week as good as it sounds?

The Big Read in short: Is a 4-day work week as good as it sounds?

The Big Read in short: Is a 4-day work week as good as it sounds?

Each week, TODAY’s long-running Big Read series delves into the trends and issues that matter. This week, we speak to companies and workers who have adopted a shorter work week, and find out why a four-day week may not be viable for all. This is a shortened version of the full feature, which can be found here.


Taufiq Zalizan


In Singapore, conversations around having more days away from work have picked up steam as employees reevaluate their work-life balance after the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted work norms.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said in a written parliamentary reply in July 2021 that any employer wishing to pilot a four-day work week with their employees may do so, because “there is no legal impediment to implementing such a scheme”.

Last year, Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang said that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and its partners “strongly encourage employers and employees to be open to flexible work arrangements” to best meet their respective needs, including a four-day work week.

While the MOM had no plans to conduct four-day work week trials here, Ms Gan noted that results from pilots implemented in other countries appeared mixed.

Various polls in recent years indicated a strong interest in a four-day work week, though some surveys found that employees did have some apprehensions about the arrangement.  

Two-thirds of 1,000 respondents aged between 18 and 35 polled by TODAY in September last year agreed or strongly agreed to Singapore moving to a four-day work week, even if it meant working more hours each work dayA separate survey of 1,000 workers here that same month by market research firm Milieu Insight found that 37 per cent wanted a four-day work week “very much”, while another 44 per cent said they “want it, but have a few concerns”

Among the top concerns respondents of the Milieu Insight survey had were urgent tasks or work correspondences spilling into the non-working day, potential salary cuts or the stress of longer work days.

In a more recent poll conducted in March and April, Milieu Insight found eight in 10 workers in Singapore to be very supportive or somewhat supportive of their company participating in a four-day work week trial.

Asked about the possible negative impacts that they believed such a shortened work schedule could bring, the respondents picked lower wages (39 per cent), burnt-out workers (27 per cent) and weaker office culture (25 per cent). 

One in four (26 per cent) of them thought there would not be any negative implications.


Mr Gabriel Nam, partner at headhunter firm Page Executive, told TODAY: “Four-day or 4.5-day work week in theory is always a good and popular thing to do but in reality… it is more complicated than that and there will be a lot of practical and business considerations behind it.”

Such considerations may include costs, lack of manpower and operational complexities in dealing with external partners or clients which expect continuous service beyond four days.

These concerns could indicate that some companies may be more suited than others to implement shorter work weeks, said business and human resource experts.