The 4 Day Work Week might be coming to your place of employment. Is it right for you and your company? There are a lot of benefits
It may not be a matter of “if” but more a matter of “when.” The 4-day work week is coming to America and, in fact, for many businesses across the country, it is already here. While the idea has been discussed ad nauseam here in the States, it is only recently that it has begun to get implemented. So, where did the 4-day work week get its first start? Has it been effective, or has it been a failure? Does it mean more work for employees? Less pay, perhaps? Let’s take a look at the 4-day work week and see if we can decide if this way should be the future of employment.
WHAT IS CAUSING THIS SHIFT IN WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
As the COVID pandemic took hold, workers began to work at home in earnest. They got to experience the work-life balance in a totally different way and as the world began to open up once again, it was a balance that they wanted to continue. So, in order to create this for employees, and to also entice them back into the workforce, employers began to consider a 4-day work week.
While increased pay is what we are all looking for, especially as inflation has run rampant across the globe, more flexibility is what most workers crave. They would love nothing more to put in four days of work to get that extra day to relax, take a long weekend away, or even use that time to catch up on some home chores. It appears that a 4-day work week would be a win for employees, but what about employers? How do they cover losing employees one day out of the five-day work week?
To date, there have already been a number of countries that have introduced some form of a 4-day work week. The results have been varied, but for the most part, positive. So, why is the 4-day work week taking so long to take hold in our country?
WHAT COUNTRY WORKS 4 DAYS A WEEK?
Although employers across our great nation have bandied about the pros and cons of a 4-day work week, other countries have actually implemented it. Spurred on by the COVID pandemic, employers across the globe were forced to retool how they went about their business. Workplace flexibility was becoming a necessity if companies wanted to stay in business.
Belgium has become the latest country to embrace a 4-day work week. According to Alexander de Croo, the Prime Minister of Belgium, “The goal is to give people and companies more freedom to arrange their work time.” So, employees were given the right to take their five-day work week and turn it into four. To make matters even better for Belgium employees, they don’t lose one penny of pay by dropping to four days a week.
To clarify, Belgium workers do get to decide if they wish to go four days a week or keep the traditional five days. If they choose four, it doesn’t mean they work less. It only means that their daily work hours will increase so they can get their full hours in.
De Croo understands just how rigid a country Belgium is when it comes to employment. “If you compare our country with others, you’ll often see we’re far less dynamic”. He is hoping the flexibility will put big smiles on the faces of Belgium workers. He is also hoping the 4-day work week will bring workers back into the workforce.
According to Eurostat data, the third quarter of 2021 showed that only around 71 out 100 Belgians in the 20 to 64 age group are employed. This number is less than the Eurozone average, which sits at 73 percent. It also equates to a full 10 percent less than the country’s neighbors Germany and the Netherlands. The country may have its work cut out for it as they have a stated goal of an 80 percent employment rate by 2030. To hit this goal would mean that the country’s legal pensions would remain affordable and they would also be able to finance any future tax cuts.
Iceland is another country that has been implementing a 4-day work week trial. So far, the test has been an “overwhelming success.” They have noted a much happier workforce with a “dramatically increased” worker wellbeing.
Not to be outdone is the United Kingdom. They aren’t only offering employees a 4-day work week, but get paid for five days, they are also offering a unique 7-day “just get your work done” model as well. The idea behind it all is to allow employees more control of their lives. To get things moving in this direction, the UK is beginning a pilot program beginning in June. So far, they have pulled in 60 companies that employ over 3,000 employees. The program will have employees working four 9.5 hours a day, giving them the ability to take care of five days of work in four. The hours may eventually extend to 10-hour days, four days a week, pending a workplace trade union agreement.
The UK pilot program is being run by 4 Day Week Global, a company that has been advocating for a 4-day work week. “Similar programs are set to start in the US and Ireland, with more planned for Canada, Australia, and New Zealand,” Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, said via Euronews.
Also slotted to begin pilot programs are Scotland and Wales. Scotland will begin their trial in 2023, while Wales has not yet set their start date. The employees in Scotland will be dropping 20 percent of their work hours but won’t see a loss in pay whatsoever.
According to the World Economic Forum, Germany employs one of the shortest work weeks on average in all of Europe. They average 34.2 hours of work per week, but do you think that is stopping their trade unions from requesting even shorter hours? IG Metall is Germany’s largest trade union and they have called upon the government to shorten hours, even more, claiming that it will help avoid layoffs and retain jobs.
HOW MANY HOURS IS A 4-DAY WORK WEEK?
Depending on which part of the globe you live in, the 4-day work week can have different hours. Some countries are looking to keep the requisite 40-hours by turning your four days into 10-hour days. Others are looking to truly reward their employees by offering to turn their work week into 32-hour weeks, but still paying them for 40 hours.
IS A 4-DAY WORK WEEK BETTER?
Who wouldn’t want a 4-day work week? Less time away from home, more time to get out and play. For some, though, a 4-day work week isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. In hopes of generating happier workers and more production, France recently implemented a 35-hour work week. The effect has been the country seeing workers take more vacations than anything. It doesn’t appear to have had the intended effect.
One only needs to look to Microsoft Japan to see that, yes, 4-day work weeks with more flexibility can certainly work. The company has seen a 40 percent jump in not only productivity but a major rise in employee happiness. Some companies in Europe are not waiting for a pilot program or the government to okay the move or force them into it. Take, for instance, the London-based digital PR firm Reboot. IN March, they went all-in with a 4-day work week. Shai and Naomi Aharony are the firm’s managing directors and say they were inspired to go 4 days a week when they read about Iceland’s trial. “It alleviated our anxieties and gave us the reassurance that this could work for us,” Shai Aharony said to ZDNet.
The four-day working model that Reboot uses sees employees with Fridays off. Shai says the trial has been a great success up to this point. What he’s seen so far is an increase in productivity. His employees have been much happier and they say they are much more rested. In the internal employee surveys, Reboot has found that there is a 21 percent increase in employees reporting a good work-life balance. “It’s the best business move we’ve made since we founded Reboot in 2012,” Shai added.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF WE HAD A 4 DAY WORK WEEK?
So, the big question for those of us residing in the United States is: when will we see a 4-day work week? Well, we have seen it and we are about to see more of it. In Keller, Texas, several of their city offices will begin their 4-day work week trial. The Keller Town Hall, the Municipal Service Center, and the records department of the Keller Police Department will start implementing a four-day, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. schedule that will run Monday through Thursday with Fridays being closed.
In San Antonio, Texas, the Bexar County Clerk’s Office is looking to introduce a similar schedule. As part of their goal to help alleviate rising costs, the clerk’s office will now offer employees the opportunity to work four 10-hour days instead of coming in five days. It will not affect their business hours, as they plan to remain in operation from 8-5, Monday through Friday.
Across the country, there have been a number of businesses that have or are getting ready to try their hand out on a 4-day work week. Some of the businesses include Awin, Basecamp, Bit.io, Bolt, Bunny Studio, Buffer, and the City of Morgantown, WV. Don’t be surprised if your business isn’t already working on a 4-day work week solution.
In California, they love being a state of “firsts.” If AB-2932 Workweek passes, they will be just that. The bill, as written, is looking to change the official workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours. Pay will not be decreased and in fact, if the bill is passed, it would also see employees getting compensated at one-and-a-half times their regular salary if they put in any time over 32 hours during a work week.
The proposed bill would see California workers still work eight-hour days; they would just cut their schedule back from five days to four. There is one caveat to the proposed bill though. The new legislation, if enacted, would only affect around 2,600 companies in the state, which would total around 3.6 million employees. The reason for this is that the proposed bill only applies to businesses with 500 employees or more.
Is your work-life balance completely out of whack? Would you benefit from a 4-day work week? Are you even up for a 4-day work week? Let us know where you stand.