The four-day workweek is the future of employee productivity and balance. It has been popularised by advocates who suggest that when implemented, workers will be more satisfied with their jobs while also increasing production levels among companies in countries where it’s accepted as standard practice. Trade unions across Europe have answered loud enough for policymakers to take notice, and it looks like a four-day workweek might be imminent all around!
This year, Belgian employees won the right to perform a full workweek in four days instead of five without loss-of salary. On September 2016, the lower house voted through “The Deal For Employment” Bill. It cleared another legislative hurdle before it became an official law and gave people more freedom to spend time at home with their families or enjoy private life outside office hours as long as it benefits employees.
With less than 80% of Belgians working, it is no wonder that the country has one of its lowest Eurostat rankings. We can see this trend across many European countries, with an average rate of just over 70%.
To help combat this issue and provide more freedom for workers from 20-64 years old looking into changing careers or simply wanting some time off during their day. The eight-year goal of an employment rate of 80% by 2030 will be challenging but possible. Some people may work very long days if they choose to. Others could condense their hours, while some, like shift workers, might need more flexibility in terms of working time schedules due to this new policy implementation.
The UK made it work
The four-day workweek is an experiment that has been highly successful in the UK. Companies across Great Britain plan on making it permanent after hailing this initiative as “extremely promising.” The pilot programme began on June 6 and lasted six months, with 70 businesses participating.
3303 workers signed up, including men and women from different professions who were interested or needed more time off than usual because they had children at home. Many breastfeeding mothers also came forward seeking assistance during daytime hours when their kids typically go off to school. Various environmental organisations also track how decreased energy consumption affects sustainability goals.
The four-day workweek is a popular policy among many companies, and the UK’s newest experiment with this format could be enough to make it stick around. Employees in 141 organisations took part in a survey that asked them about their thoughts on workweeks less than 40 hours long. 86% were highly likely or likely to consider keeping or moving to the four-day workweek permanently.
Scotland and Wales
The Scottish government has announced that it will be conducting a trial of the reduced-work-hours initiative this coming year. The SNP currently rules over Scotland and made promises on workplace reform during their campaign for office last May, including support from companies who report high levels of employee satisfaction with current benefits packages. It is committed to providing £10 million worth of support should there prove successful.
Iceland, as one of the leaders
The world’s largest pilot of a 35 to 36-hour workweek was conducted in Iceland between 2015 and 2019. It cut down from the traditional 40 hours without any calls for pay cuts. The experiment aimed to reduce unemployment rates and increase productivity while improving employee satisfaction with their job responsibilities and increased flexibility through more time off or even telecommuting options if they choose it! The British think tank Autonomy analysed the results alongside the Icelandic non-profit Association For Sustainability And Democracy (ALDA).
When Iceland introduced the four-day workweek, it changed significantly, with nearly 90% of workers having reduced hours or other accommodations. Researchers found that work stress and burnout lessened as well.
Sweden’s mixed reactions
The Swedish government tested a four-day working week with full pay in 2015. The proposal was to try six-hour workdays instead of eight without losing wages. Still, only some were pleased by this idea, and it soon expired after mixed results were observed at the orthopaedics unit within the university hospital.
Eighty nurses switched from their usual shift length resulting in a need to hire additional staff members who made up for lost time due to them switching over. There has been criticism against such experiments, which arises primarily because companies may choose unlimited flexibility over higher productivity if they’re able.
The motor vehicle industry had already decided to do this for mechanics ten years ago and stuck with their decision.
Finland had not introduced a four-day work week, despite widespread claims that it was cooking up such an idea in 2018 when prime minister Sanna Marin publicly announced the proposal on Twitter, only to turn out later as fake news. She put forward these proposals during her government tenure, which ended before any action could occur, mainly because there is no political WILL behind pushing through significant changes concerning labour policy at the current time.
German start-ups experiment
Trade unions are calling for shorter working hours in Germany. Last year, IG Metall argued that it would help retain jobs and avoid layoffs by having an option to only work four days per week – according to 71% of people who responded said they wanted this too!
With a substantial majority believing that employees and employers would benefit from the introduction of four-day workweeks, it is not surprising why such an idea has been gaining traction. In fact, according to recent survey data released by Britain’s Department for Business International Trade (BDIT), almost three-quarters of 72% support exploration into this possibility. In comparison, 45% say their company boss also backs exploring shorter workweeks!
There are many reasons attributed to these numbers. One reason may be because businesses with less than 20 workers seem most open towards trial periods involving reduced hours which suggests plans on whether they will implement on not.
Japan’s day workweek
The Japanese government announced a plan to achieve a better work-life balance in 2021. It could be good for their country, where death by overwork claims many lives, and staff often fall ill due to excessive working hours or become suicidal because it is so hard on them emotionally! That’s why Microsoft offered its employees three-day weekends this year, which resulted in 40% more productivity than before – proving just how beneficial such an idea is when done right.
The Spanish government has announced that it will launch a four-day workweek pilot program for companies interested in the idea. The small left-wing party Más País requested this, and 6 thousand employees from 200 smaller businesses could extend their weekends by one day with full pay as part of talks held after an initial agreement was reached between both sides. Whether or not we see an actual start date remains unclear.
US and Canada leading the way
It’s no surprise that with the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers are considering alternative hybrid schedules and new work styles. In fact, according to a recent survey by cloud software vendor Qualtrics, 74% of employees say they would be able complete the same amount of tasks in four days. Indeed’s survey of 1,000 employers of office workers in Canada found that 51 per cent of large companies with 500+ employees would be “likely to implement four-day workweeks”.
With the right partner, you can grow your business in a way that is both quick and compliant. Our international workforce partners are experienced in helping growing companies to reach new heights across borders worldwide. Take advantage of our EOR services which automatically send support payments made by employers like yourself – all handled promptly every month. Contact us today to speak with our experts about switching to a four-day workweek!