Yes or no for agency heads?

Singapore’s parliament has explored the possibility of a four-day working week. The conversation was launched on September 13 by Gan Siow Huang, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Manpower, who spoke in favor of this flexible working formula.

Gan said during the 2022 Supply Committee speech that the pandemic has highlighted “the importance of supporting employee well-being.” She said: “We have advocated for the adoption of flexible working arrangements precisely because they are flexible and capable of meeting all varied forms of individual needs”. Quoting MP Sharael Taha, she said that in addition to employee well-being, a four-day working week “will also allow companies to tap into a larger pool of workers, including seniors and disabled workers. “.

Gan gave the answer following a question from MP Melvin Yong (PAP-Radin Mas) about ongoing studies to examine the feasibility of a four-day working week in Singapore. Gan shared that MOM is unaware of any such ongoing studies. She added that reports of pilots of the four-day workweek implemented in other countries seemed mixed.

Many countries have already tested this working arrangement, such as the UK, Japan and New Zealand. In the UK, a six-month pilot program testing a four-day working week on 3,300 employees in 70 companies started in June. Meanwhile, in Iceland, trials of this working regime took place between 2015 and 2019 by the Reykjavík City Council. The researchers said productivity stayed the same or improved in most companies. The national government has included more than 2,500 workers in this program, which represents about 1% of the Icelandic labor force, according to the BBC.

Closer to home, Japan, known for its long working hours and tough work culture, is also giving the four-day work week a chance. Major Japanese companies such as Panasonic and Microsoft are in favor of flexible working arrangements. The company reported a 40% increase in productivity, CNBC reported.

Meanwhile, the advertising industry in Singapore has long had a culture of long hours and over the years has cemented its reputation as one with high attrition rates. Talent has been a constant pain point for many leaders in this industry. With more and more conversations about the need for work-life balance and mental health, we ask industry players if a four-day work structure is possible in this rather demanding industry.

Goh Shufen, President of AAMS and co-founder of R3

As a non-frontline service industry, a four-day work week, in theory, is possible under two important conditions. First, review the process. We need to reduce the time wasted on iterations. Clients and agencies need to review their process and be clear. Efficient processes can reduce time costs by at least 20%.

Second, we need experienced people, both on the client and agency side, to empower their employees more. Too much time is wasted on key players giving their two cents, which is costly – not only financially, but can also undermine morale.

Ultimately, a mindset shift from a master-slave to a few goals mentality is needed in the client-agency relationship for the four-day work week to become a reality.

Pat Law, CEO, GOODSTUPH Singapore
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For agencies that operate on an hourly billing model and sell a large portion of billable hours at a discounted rate, switching to a four-day work week can be difficult. But it is not impossible.

First of all, I never quite understood why we charge by the hour, and more so because of the accumulation of hours. If I take half the time to produce the same deliverable, shouldn’t I be paid more to save you time? And I think that’s part of the problem – that we don’t reward efficiency enough.

I’m in favor of a four-day work week (calling Friday’s day off “Good Friday” is tempting as well as blasphemous) but the reality is that we need everyone in our food chain to unanimously commit to it.

For example, if the government wants to champion the four-day working week, then perhaps it makes sense for all departments to ban all pitches due in less than four weeks. Four weeks seems like a long time, but the reality is that not all of us sit around waiting for an invitation from GeBIZ to present. And that’s not just the role of government.

Customers, suppliers and agencies themselves must play their part. From being on time for a meeting to acknowledging that meeting should have been an email. It’s an industry-wide overhaul, but in the long run, I think it’s a good thing to have.

Jacqui Lim, CEO, Havas Media Group Singapore

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I think it ultimately comes down to three areas: intention, expectations, and boundaries.

As employers, we need to be clear whether we are implementing this as a cost management measure or as a smart way to access talent that would otherwise be inaccessible to us due to their life stage or other personal commitments such as balancing family needs or their studies.

So yes, access to talent is a huge motivator for any employer in the advertising industry! With the right intention, it will set clear expectations where both employer and employee will know exactly what the other party is looking for in the engagement to ensure it pays off for all.

Finally, setting boundaries is most important because expecting our staff to handle a five-day-a-week scope of work while being paid a four-day-a-week salary is neither fair nor sustainable, so a lot of planning and managing mutual expectations should be agreed upon from the outset.

We also don’t need to roll this out as a general agreement applicable to all staff, but we could always start with an open attitude to adopt it for staff who proactively request it because of their personal circumstances.

Paul Soon, CEO, MullenLowe SEA

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I agree that a four-day work week is one of many flexible working arrangements. We are already working in the hybrid era and that means there is flexibility to work in or out of the office and for some – from anywhere else in the world. Ultimately, productivity and work efficiency cannot be affected, especially when we are in the service industry.

While I can see the appeal of a four-day work week (I mean I’d love to have that too!), I’m still concerned about the diminishing value of the social side of being in a creative industry.

That’s always been the challenge, regardless of a hybrid work model or whether we move to a four-day work week. It all boils down to how the entire industry can be both effective and efficient with the time we share as we aim to produce the best work to drive business growth.

Joanne Theseira, Managing Director, Publicis Communications

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Our customers already know that mentally healthy teams stay together longer, are more productive and more creative. We currently encourage our teams to sign off from work every Friday afternoon – at the very least for work meetings and appointments, or more ideally to spend time enriching their lives outside of work. We started the program during the pandemic and found no reason to stop it.

I think a four-day work week is something to consider as we build customer confidence and reset expectations together.

Related article:
New World Group launches 4.5-day work week for employees


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