The Korea Herald


More flexible workweeks at Samsung, large firms

Major firms experiment with four-day workweeks to boost work-life balance

By Jo He-rim

Published : June 13, 2023 - 16:25

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Samsung Electronics' headquarters in Seocho-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap) Samsung Electronics' headquarters in Seocho-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap)

Samsung Electronics said Tuesday it is introducing more flexible working hours by allowing employees to take one Friday off per month.

Keen attention is being paid to the brand new working hour scheme launched by the nation’s largest company by sales, renewing discussions about the idea of a four-day workweek, two decades after a five-day workweek was introduced back in 2002.

Samsung’s new policy will be applied to all employees who fulfill the required work hours of 160 to 168 hours during the month, according to the tech giant. Production workers are excluded from the policy, as they run on rotating shifts.

The Device Solution division in charge of Samsung's semiconductor business will be calling the holiday "Family Day," while the Device eXperience division responsible for smartphones and home appliances will call it "Development Day."

The policy allows for employees to have the option of taking off the Friday the week of pay day, which falls on the 21st of every month. In the case that the 21st falls on Saturday or Sunday, they can opt to take off the Friday that immediately precedes the weekend.

Kicking off the new policy this month, employees can take Friday June 23 off.

The change is a follow-up measure to the agreement made in the joint labor-management conference held in April. The management reportedly suggested the monthly day off first, and the labor union accepted the deal.

Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong has highlighted the importance of creating a "flexible" work environment in order to attract talented workers.

"What we should do is to bring in good talent, and make a flexible work culture for the company to easily adapt to changes," Lee had said in June last year.

"We are introducing a system for a flexible work environment, for employees to better manage their working and resting hours. But the company does not plan to adopt a four-day workweek system any time soon," a Samsung official said.

It is not the first time Samsung is offering paid leaves. The company allowed workers with children to work four days a week during the COVID-19 pandemic from April to May 2020.

Four-day workweek experiments

The latest move comes as other Korean companies, especially in the IT and gaming industries, are increasingly experimenting with four-day workweeks.

Some affiliates of SK Group, the country's second-largest conglomerate, are operating one or two four-day workweeks to improve work-life balance for employees. SK Supex Council, the group’s top decision-making body, offers employees two paid Fridays every month, and SK Telecom allows workers to take a Friday off every other week. SK hynix, the world's second-largest memory chipmaker, also runs a four-day workweek every third week of the month.

Kakao Games also runs a biweekly four-day week, introducing the system for the first time in the gaming industry in 2018.

CJ ENM, Korea’s entertainment juggernaut, is also one of the companies allowing workers to take Friday off every other week.

Around the globe, there are countries that are looking into implementing the four-day workweek nationwide.

The Japanese government introduced a new recommendation in its annual policy guideline, suggesting companies let employees work four days per week instead of the usual five -- providing the legal foundation for companies to try out the shorter workweek.

Belgium also introduced a law in November 2022 for companies to allow employees to maintain the same amount of work hours over four days in a week, without losing their salary.

South Africa and Iceland are also among the countries that have tried out four-day workweek pilots.