The current topic of recent days in many countries, but it has been discussed in the world for years. Let’s look at the results with which individual countries and companies approached the experiment with the four-day workweek.
There are many reasons why there is talk of reducing work to 4 days a week. According to many theories, work productivity would improve (basically, the less time you have for a task, the more productive you are), employee satisfaction would improve, energy resources would be saved, and the issue of insufficient labor would be solved. This premise was used by several global companies and countries when testing the 4-day work week.
However, it should be noted that each company can implement the 4-day work week in its way. In some companies, the employees only work 4 days a week, but at the same time, they have to work the same number of hours, i.e. 40. This means they spend 10 hours a day at work to have one day off a week. Another possibility consists in shortening the number of days employees work and reducing the number of hours worked. Instead of the traditional 40 hours, they only have to devote 32 hours to their work.
What is the situation in the world?
Outside Europe, one of the first countries to introduce a 4-day work week was the island country of Iceland. The results were extremely positive. They report increased productivity, overall employee satisfaction, and even improved work results. As a result, Iceland eventually incorporated the shortened working week model into legislation, and around 85% of all employees in the country can only work 4 days a week.
A financial consulting company from Australia reduced working hours from 8 to 5 hours. Most of the employees of this company expressed that the reduction in working hours helped them to increase their efficiency and discipline at work. Of course, there were also a few employees who did not like the faster work pace. In general, however, satisfaction prevailed. In the end, the company reached a compromise and introduced 5-hour working days only during the summer period (we know that in Australia there are extremely hot summers, which do not help work performance).
New Zealand has also introduced a trial version of the shortened working week. It was a project of the Unilever company. The results brought numbers that would please many HR departments:
% decreased absences from work
% stress decreased
% increased feeling of energy and will at work
% decreased work-life conflict
What is the situation in Europe?
The largest pilot test of the 4-day working week to date has been carried out in the UK. Great Britain conducted a survey in 2022 in which more than 60 companies participated. For 6 months, they shortened the working week for their employees from 5 days to 4. The results say that these employees are more efficient, more disciplined and more satisfied. At the same time, they perform better and are less sick. Shortening the working week also has a positive ecological impact. The consumption of electricity and water in the offices and the number of used papers decreased.
“It turned out that 71 percent of employees were less burned out, 39 percent less stressed and 48 percent more satisfied with their work than before the test. At the same time, 15 percent of employees said that no salary bonus would motivate them to return to the 5-day work week,” Research and Advocacy Advisor India Burgess shared the test results with hundreds of young EYE2023 participants.
Last year, with the help of the non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global, Portugal launched an experiment in which 39 private sector companies participated for 6 months.
Employers participating in the program agreed to reduce the number of hours employees work each week. However, they did so without the reduction in the number of hours worked affecting their salary. This was helped by the 100-80-100 model, according to which workers received 100% of wages for working 80% of the time in exchange for delivering 100% of work output.
Companies were waiting to see if a shortened work week would help reduce employee stress and burnout, and if it would help improve employee retention. The results of the experiment should be published in the coming weeks, we will update the article.
In France, almost 10,000 workers already use this new type of work attendance and according to a study carried out by ADP, up to 22% of working French men and women expect that the 4-day work week will become the standard in their field within 5 years. 28% of the world’s population think the same (according to this survey).
We can find a similar situation in many other European countries. There are no statutory rules for short workweek, but some local companies are experimenting with it as a benefit for their employees. Slovakia’s government is currently thinking about implementing it while some local companies have already been providing this benefit to their employees for a few years.
The first country in Europe that legislated a four-day week was Belgium. In February 2022, Belgian employees won the right to perform a full workweek in four days without loss of salary. The new law came into force on November 21, allowing employees to decide whether to work four or five days a week. But this does not mean they will be working less – they will simply condense their working hours into fewer days.
The European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, believes that the European Union should actively support the concept of a four-day working week, especially in sectors facing labor shortages. He considers this to be a key measure for effectively solving the problems associated with labor shortages in Europe.
According to Ján Košč, Slovak socio-economic analyst, trade unionist, civil activist and commentator of the Working Poverty initiative, the reduction of working hours “also reduces the inequality between women and men and at the same time increases the participation of men in unpaid domestic work and childcare, which in turn benefits healthy mental and physical health children”.
However, many experts point out that legislation does not stand in the way of such adjustments. It can also be seen in the examples mentioned above. Although the vast majority of employment contracts are set to a classic working week, the employee and employer can agree on an individual adjustment.
So it’s up to you whether you try this alternative with your employees. Surprisingly, the results from all over the world so far show only positive responses. However, it is necessary to point out what is probably clear to everyone: the 4-day working week cannot by any chance apply to every industry, and unfortunately, some of them will never reach it due to the nature of their work. However, the Labor Code remembers them and monitors and orders mandatory breaks, days off and other parameters.
LIKED WHAT YOU'VE JUST READ?
Feed your thirst for more! Subscribe and receive our news directly in your inbox.
Online portal for HR management | Attendance management | Business trip management | Company benefit management | Company event management | Secure pay slip distribution via TULIP | Income invoice management and data extraction