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4-Day Work Week: Can It Work In Malaysia?

Thu, 16 Mar 2023

4-Day Work Week: Can It Work In Malaysia?

4-Day Work Week: Can It Work In Malaysia?

Remote work and flexible schedules have been hot topics in the professional world for years. But what about condensing the work week into four days?

The 4-day work week is still novel to many companies in Malaysia, who remain hesitant to make such a drastic change, given that they are so used to the traditional 5-day work week.

As times change, so do our work habits.

The concept of a 4-day work week has become more and more attractive in this age of advancing technology and globalization: with shorter hours and potential benefits to job satisfaction, employee well-being, and productivity.

We’ve all heard the example of Sweden’s 6-hour workday for workers. But could the idea of a four-day week for work realistically become our way of life here in Malaysia?

Let’s dive right into it!

Background of 4-Day Work Week

The background of the 4-day work week begins in Europe, where countries such as Sweden and Finland have experimented with shorter working days to improve productivity and quality of life. However, this concept has also caught on outside of Europe, finding its way into countries like the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

But why is it that businesses are interested in the idea of a 4-day work week? It can offer numerous benefits to both employers and employees alike. Mainly, it would free up an extra day in people’s lives to enjoy activities outside of their jobs while still allowing businesses to reduce costs. In addition, it provides them with more flexibility when it comes to scheduling staff and will enable them to use the extra day for further training or personal development goals.

Need for a Change in Malaysian Companies

Malaysian companies have long been operating with the same tired 5-day work week.

It’s time for a change in Malaysian companies’ approach to working lives. The traditional 5-day work week is outdated, leaving employees and employers feeling drained and unproductive.

Moving towards a 4-day system, with flexible hours, means that employees can enjoy more free time while still producing quality work. Additionally, employers will benefit from reduced overhead costs and improved morale, which could lead to increased productivity levels.

With the proper support from both sides, a 4-day work week can benefit everyone - employees get more freedom, and employers reap the rewards of higher engagement and productivity.

However, before making the switch, there are pros and cons to consider.

Pros and Cons of a 4-Day Work Week

When weighing up the pros and cons of such an arrangement, you must consider the extra planning and management on behalf of employers. With that said, there are still many potential benefits to both employees and employers and some potential drawbacks.

Benefits of Shorter Hours

The potential benefits of having shorter working hours are real and many for both employers and employees. We’re talking about increased productivity levels and work-life balance!

Having fewer staff members working fewer days can help businesses in Malaysia save on costs. But that’s not all; a 4-day work week could also mean more time available for leisure activities. This will help reduce stress and prevent burnout, which can be especially useful in today’s high-pressure environment.

Furthermore, the evidence indicates that countries with shorter work weeks (Europe) remain some of the world’s most productive countries.

Potential Drawbacks

While there are many potential benefits to a 4-day work week system in Malaysia, there are also some drawbacks that employers should consider before making the switch.

Chief among them is decreased productivity as employees may have less time to accomplish tasks and complete their workload with the shortened hours compared to a 5-day system. Additionally, businesses will need to adjust their roles and responsibilities as they transition from one system to the other, potentially making it difficult for the entire operation.

Moreover, the quantity of staff needed must also be taken into consideration: an unmanageable workload can occur if too few staff members are on duty each day.

Lastly, while more leisure time can benefit employees’ personal lives, there is no guarantee that the extra day off will be spent wisely or productively. Therefore, employers should carefully weigh these potential drawbacks when contemplating whether a 4-day workweek would work in Malaysia.

Adoption of 4-Day Work Week in Other Countries

The four-day work week is gaining traction throughout the world and has already been adopted by several countries, with Europe being in a league of its own.


Iceland has long been a pioneer in reducing its traditional 40-hour workweek. Between 2015 to 2019, they conducted the world’s most extensive pilot of a 35 to 36-hour workweek without cutting pay.

To ensure the success of this pilot, Icelandic trade unions, alongside the non-profit Association for Sustainability and Democracy (ALDA), were involved in analyzing the results from 2,500 people who participated in the test phase.

The research aided by these groups deemed the shorter work hours a success, leading to Iceland negotiating a further reduction in working hours.


Since November 2022, Belgian employees have had the right to perform a full work week in just four days, with no loss of salary.

Their work hours per week will be consolidated over fewer days, but this does not imply the total amount of work done will be reduced. Prime Minister Alexander de Croo sees this as a way to create a more dynamic economy through flexible work arrangements.

Not everyone finds this appealing, though, as some full-timers might end up working very long days if they decide to be part of the compressed work schedule, despite shift workers usually not being able to do that.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom implemented a six-month pilot program involving 61 companies and 3,300 employees.

The UK think tank Autonomy, alongside Cambridge and Oxford Universities as well as 4 Day Week Global and 4 Day Week UK Campaign non-profit advocacy groups, have all contributed to this experiment with an aim to pave the way towards establishing the four-day work week experiment becoming a permanent feature in society.

This project is the biggest of its kind that has been launched and has already begun making a lasting impact on June 6th 2022.

To make this possible, they adopted the “100:80:100 model” - essentially 100% pay for 80% time with a commitment to maintaining at least 100% productivity.

In short - it worked!

92% of British companies have decided to keep the policy once the trial period ends.

The trial proved their hypothesis to be highly successful, heralding the potential benefits of a shorter workweek for businesses’ productivity, workers’ well-being, environmental sustainability and gender equality.


It is clear that Europe has found an effective way of managing its working hours, yielding better outcomes for both employers and employees alike.

It may be something worth exploring for Malaysian companies if they want to consider the compressed four-day work week!

Challenges Facing Malaysian Employers Considering a 4-Day Workweek

Reluctance to Change

Employers in Malaysia considering a four-day workweek may feel apprehensive about the change. After all, it isn’t easy to know how such a shift would affect productivity and morale, given that the five-day work week has been the norm for so long.

Despite how it may seem, a four-day work week is not as straightforward as it appears. Carrying out such a change successfully requires careful planning and consideration.

Furthermore, introducing new policies such as flexible hours or remote working might further complicate matters for many Malaysian companies that are used to traditional 8-5 schedules. Therefore, they may not be willing to take the risk of implementing such a change in the first place.

Employee Productivity Concerns

Employers naturally have concerns about employee productivity when considering a four-day work week.

A shorter working hours schedule may bring many potential benefits, but it can also lead to decreased output quality or financial losses. In addition, employees may take issue with a four-day workweek if they’re expected to maintain their workload despite less time in the office.

Any changes in scheduling need to be carefully thought out so that the team is still capable of delivering the expected results while keeping morale high.

All in All,

The 4-day work week is worth exploring and could be a beneficial change for Malaysia. Adopting this new work structure could result in increased creativity, productivity, job satisfaction, and cost reduction in businesses.

It is vital to have proper planning and preparation to make the transition successful. The change towards a more productive and successful workforce requires carefully examining the pros and cons for both employers and employees.

At Upscale, we believe that talents should be valued and appreciated and that the workplace should be a place of joy, creativity, and productivity.

We offer a range of diverse talent pools and innovative solutions to support our clients in creating an ideal work environment inside your company.

Go to www.upscale.my for more information.