Four-day work week: heroine or villain?

The four-day working day is a clear trend in the workplace - see what the experts have to say about it!

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What seemed like a utopia is now closer to becoming a reality, the four-day working day is already being generally considered for about two years from now and, in the meantime, there are already companies that have done their own pilot tests. For now, there are opinions on everything, so if you are also one of those who are willing to do this experiment, keep reading this post; we will see the possible pros and cons of this progressive measure and we will contrast different points of view.

What would the proposed 4-day work week methodology look like?

The methodology of the 4-day working day in Spain is based on a 100-80-100 model, i.e. 100% pay, 80% hours, 100% productivity, i.e. under no circumstances should it be confused with the accumulation of 40 hours a week in four days, but rather reducing them to 32.

This pilot project, which begins as the star proposal for improvements in the workplace, promoted by the Ministry of Industry, has already begun; offering economic aid for SMEs that reduce their workers’ working hours and champion the change. Specifically, this programme will give up to 150.000 € to each company and will benefit between 60 and 70 SMEs, which will have to maintain this working day for at least two years in order to see long-term results, but there’s more! Interested companies will have to cut their weekly working hours by at least 10% and will have to maintain the four-day working time reduction for two years, but in no case will this lead to a reduction in the pay received by employees. Therefore, there would be no reduction in salaries and no reduction in holidays in this 4-day working day model. The main idea is to maintain productivity with a better work-life balance for employees.

What do HR experts say about the four-day work week?

Several companies have already joined this pilot initiative in Spain and some, such as Software Delsol, highlight their good experience. A more committed workforce, increased efficiency and a better working environment are some of the benefits they report.

Other companies, such as Growara, a business consultancy, have not only joined this new modality, but also help other entities to implement it. What they do is propose strategies for adapting to change, offer training in the use of new technological tools that streamline processes and propose new models of team hierarchies in which leadership is more oriented, collaborative work is encouraged and emphasis is placed on efficient communication.

However, although most of the companies that have tried short-time working have had a satisfactory experience, not all of them share a good opinion of it. For example, according to Amazon and Ryanair managers, the reduced working hours affected customer service, increasing complaints about delays in orders or lack of support staff.

What is the origin of the 4-day work week? It was not in Spain!

The origin of the four-day working day took place in France in 1993, initiated and promoted by Pierre Larrouturou, who proposed a law promoted by Gilles de Robien. Larrouturou argued that the four-day working week could be applied as a remedy against the global economic crisis. This idea was the embryo of what, years later, would lead Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to approve in 1998 the reduction of the working week from 39 to 35 hours as of the year 2000 in France, allowing many workers to benefit from four-day weeks.

What advantages and disadvantages of the four-day work week have been observed in pilot companies around the world?

As you know, Spain is not the only country to have implemented this initiative; these are the conclusions that have been drawn at global level.

Proven benefits of the 4-day work week

  • Productivity gains: In 2019, Microsoft Japan introduced a four-day workday and reported a 40% increase in productivity1. Similar results were reported in global trials in 2022, with employees committing to 100% of their normal workload 80% of the time.
  • Improved physical and mental health: physical and mental health have benefited as a result of reduced stress levels and sick leave: 71% of employees report less “burnout” and 39% report being less stressed than at the start of the trial.
  • Reduced CO2 emissions: less travel also means reduced CO2 emissions.
  • Increased job satisfaction: More than nine out of ten employees who took part in the global trials said they would like to continue with the four-day day, rating their experience 9.1 out of 10.
  • Work-life balance: The 4-day working day makes it easier to raise children and take care of various personal matters.

The downside of the 4-day work week

  • Cost for companies: many companies cannot afford to pay the same for fewer hours. It is a luxury that is not within their reach, and others will be able to, but will not want to, as their profits would fall.
  • Complicated sectors: there are sectors such as health, education or hospitality in which the mini-week would be very difficult to implement.
  • More workload: an employee with a good workload would probably have to take on the same work in four days instead of five, which could cause stress.

We hope that with this post you have been able to dispel some doubts about the 4-day working day, subscribe to Educa.Pro and learn more about the areas that interest you the most!

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