Samsung tells executives to work six days a week

Samsung executives will work six days a week to “inject a sense of crisis” after all major units in the South Korean conglomerate performed worse than expected last year.

The new policy is part of Samsung’s emergency strategy aimed at mitigating the economic and geopolitical risks that saw the group’s profits dip to the lowest point since the 2008 financial crisis last year. Executives across the company will be expected to work an extra day either on Saturday or Sunday on top of their regular five-day week.

“Considering that performance of our major units, including Samsung Electronics Co., fell short of expectations in 2023, we are introducing the six-day work week for executives to inject a sense of crisis and make all-out efforts to overcome this crisis,” a Samsung Group official said, as reported by The Korea Economic Daily.

Samsung’s semiconductors business, which accounts for about 80% of the group's earnings, suffered an operating loss of some $11 billion in 2023, while the conglomerate’s overall profits were $4.9 billion, its lowest since the global financial crisis. Samsung is the world’s largest memory chip manufacturer.

Executives at some units of the conglomerate, including Samsung C&T Corp. and Samsung Heavy Industries, have already been voluntarily working six days a week since the beginning of this year. Top management from Samsung Electronics, Samsung SDS, and Samsung Display Co. will start working additional hours as early as this week, and the rest will follow “sooner than later,” the report said.

Employees under the executive level will continue to work for five days a week, which Samsung only introduced in 2003.

Samsung overtook Apple as top phone manufacturer in the first quarter of 2024 and hinted at the recovery of its chipmaking business, it is concerned by business uncertainties aggravated by sharp

However, wider economic concerns such as sharp depreciation of South Korea’s currency, rising oil prices, and high borrowing costs, as well as Russia’s war in Ukraine and escalating Middle East tensions are aggravating business uncertainties.

These concerns are shared by other Korean conglomerates, with some also tightening or expected to tighten their work-week policies. The controversial move towards a six-day work week stands in sharp contrast with debates elsewhere about shortening the work week to four days.

“Even if regular staff members do not work for six days, they will feel a sense of pressure and fatigue from the introduction of the six-day workweek for executives,” an official from an unnamed Korean conglomerate was quoted as saying by The Korea Times.

"This clearly goes against the global labor paradigm, and it also remains doubtful as to whether such an extra-work system will be able to generate tangible outcomes," they said.

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