Work Less, Produce More

Travel & Environment Desk
An improved image for companies and a more productive workforce are just a couple of advantages of five-day workweeks
A shorter workweek can increase employees' commitment to their jobs.A shorter workweek can increase employees' commitment to their jobs.

Every time there is a long weekend—anything more than a day is considered long in Iran—people rush to travel to get away from the hustle and bustle of cities to recharge their batteries and break the monotony of everyday life.

And every time, they are reminded why they would have been better off staying at home: Standstill traffic on every road leading out of the city on the first day of the holiday (and on the way back on the final day) can test the patience of any traveler.

In a bid to avoid the rush, some decide to hit the road the night before the holiday begins, hoping to outsmart their fellow man but that plan never works because too many people think the same way. Despite all the problems, people opt to travel every time there are at least two consecutive days off, a testament to the average person's need for a change of scenery.

This has prompted calls from all groups of people, from ordinary citizens to tourism authorities and businesspeople, for two-day weekends, which is the norm in not just the Muslim world, but many other countries as well. In fact, Iran is the only Muslim country that has yet to adopt a two-day weekend, with Friday being the official weekend and Thursday a half day.

  Five-Day Workweek

By reducing working days to five and increasing weekends to two days, it is possible to spread travel across the year, preventing a pent-up demand for vacations that almost always strains the provincial infrastructure and triggers a sudden outpouring of tourists.

It will also allow people to travel far and wide instead of going to the same place every time. Most Tehranis routinely choose to travel to the northern sea or forest, because it is the shortest destination with tourism potentials they know very well. This puts a lot of pressure on both the locals and their region's infrastructure, neither of which is ever prepared for a sudden surge in tourists. Members of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, in cooperation with officials of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, tried 11 times in the past three years to pass a bill in the parliament to restructure the weekend, but failed every time.

Opponents of the scheme argue that by extending the weekends to two days, people’s productivity will decline and the economy will suffer loss of revenues. However, the arguments made by the critics are weak at best. Aside from the obvious benefits for the travel industry, longer weekends offer many other incentives.

Financially, the current structure is not justifiable, as Iran’s weekend structure means the country’s business is out of touch with the world for almost four consecutive days (Thursday afternoon to Sunday evening). Supporters of two-day weekends have proposed designating Friday and Saturday as weekend to address the problem.

Furthermore, a long workweek takes a toll on the workforce's productivity and creativity. Six days of non-stop work with only one day off is mentally taxing and physically unsustainable in the long run. In a leaflet promoting the advantages of five-day workweek, Hong Kong's Labor Department outlines benefits of shorter workweeks for both the workforce and employers.

For employees, two-day weekends mean they get enough rest and get to spend more time with their families and friends, thereby relieving stress and increasing their commitment to their jobs. Reduced commuting time and expenses are the other benefits mentioned. For employers, this can lead to their companies' enhanced efficiency and fewer requests for days off, not to mention an improved corporate image that can help attract the best and brightest talents.

To sweeten the pot for lawmakers dismissive of any bill pushing for a revised weekend structure, proponents of the scheme have suggested reducing Norouz (the Iranian New Year) holidays to a week, down from 14 days, which has been met with approval from netizens on social media.

Tourism officials and members of TCCIM are reportedly preparing another bill they hope will win over the critics and sail through the parliament once it is submitted. Here's hoping the 12th time will break the spell.

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