More and more companies welcome the four-day week. Governments, on the other hand, are not clear

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The four-day work week is gradually taking hold in companies, which are increasingly taking it into account in their long-term plans. So at least it ensures A study carried out by the Henley Business School, in the United Kingdom, in which two out of three companies surveyed have indicated that they consider this reduction in working hours essential for their future business success.

Some encouraging data for the four-day working week that are added to different initiatives, projects and policies that are already being developed by different companies, from the Telefónica test to the pMassive pilot taking place in Great Britain with more than 70 companies. The governments, on the other hand, still take this reduction in the working day with caution and, with exceptions such as that of the Valencian Community, they are not decisively betting on it.

The study. Research from the Henley School of Business points to some well-known facts about the four-day work week, such as that it reduces stress in 78% of cases and improves work quality in 64% of cases. However, the report provides other interesting data that has not been dealt with in great depth until now: the image that this measure gives the company to society.

68% of the companies consulted for the study that have already implemented a four-day work week indicate that this initiative has helped them attract more and better workers, and not only because of the promise of having more free time, but also because it shows that the company is flexible to changes in the labor market, willing to improve the conditions of its employees and shows a vision of the future.

Private sector boost. Although the initiative still raises doubts in many companies, especially when it is proposed to reduce one day of the working week without affecting the salary, the truth is that this proposal to reduce the working day is beginning to gain momentum in the private sector while it has been stuck in public.

In Spain, although there were already some companies with a four-day working week, the proposal began to sound really strong as a result of two public plans to test it, that of the Valencian Community and that of the national government. The Valencian has gone ahead according to the terms that were announced at the time, with a provision of 10 million euros to subsidize the companies that sign up for the pilot, which can be from any sector.

The national, however, has been quite diluted over time. At first, Más País, the party behind the proposal, requested an allocation of 50 million euros for a subsidy similar to the Valencian one, extendable to all sectors. However, first the budget fell to 10 million euros for the entire national territory (the same amount that Valencia will have only for its community) and a few weeks ago we learned that the pilot will only be aimed at industrial SMEs, without counting those of services.

As far as the rest of the autonomous communities are concerned, there have been some timid approaches, but nothing more. The Parliament of the Balearic Islands officially requested that the Government of Spain test its pilot project of the four-day work week in that autonomy, but only that. Neither its own project nor regional budget allocation was proposed. And in Andalusia, the Por Andalucía party promised to study the feasibility of this time reduction if it agreed to the Board in the last elections, something that did not happen.

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In other countries. In other countries around us, the public impulse is also being timid. France was the first to officially test a reduction to 35 hours of work per week in 1998 through the Aubry Law, a highly controversial regulation that, as pointed out by the EFE Agency, enormously divided the society of the neighboring country and that the subsequent governments, of different political persuasion, gradually diluted until leaving a dead letter. Today, most French people work 40 hours.

Iceland, meanwhile, ran two experiments in 2015 and 2019 to test the feasibility of the four-day workweek. Although the pilots were promoted by private organizations, Autonomy and the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda), public employees also took part in it, with good results. However, once the experiment was completed, the Icelandic Administration has not maintained the short-time schedule or included it in its legislation.

And Lithuania approved last April the four-day working week without salary reduction for a very specific group of civil servants: those who have children under three years of age.

The Belgian model. A country that did seem to have decidedly opted for the four-day work week was Belgium, which approved this reduction in the working day last February. But, as the English say, the devil is in the details. Because the Brussels proposal did not imply fewer working hours, but rather giving the worker the possibility of working from Monday to Thursday at a rate of 10 hours a day.

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private initiatives. And, while the different governments shyly look at the four-day week, private initiatives to test this work model are multiplying. The non-profit organization 4 Days Week Global is the one that is putting the most effort into it, as it keeps open, in collaboration with local institutions, pilot programs in the United States, Canada, Ireland (here with the collaboration of the Government), Australia and New Zealand.

The one in the United Kingdom, promoted by 4 Days Week Global together with the Autonomy organization and the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Boston College, This is the largest experiment of its kind to date.with 70 participating companies and almost 3,000 workers who will not see their salary reduced.

And on their own initiative it has been tested by many companies such as Microsoft in Japan, kickstarter and Bolt in the United States, Uniliver in New Zealand or Atom Bank in the United Kingdom.

Spain. In Spain we also have several cases of companies that have tried the four-day work week on their own initiative, from Software del Sol to Good Rebelds, although perhaps the most striking case, due to its size, is that of Telefónica. The telco started a pilot to study the viability of this model in its workforce last year and a few months ago, given the good results, it decided to extend the possibility of reducing the working day to its entire workforce.

Although in this case there is also small print: every employee who wants to accept the four-day work week will have to face an 80% reduction in salary on the day he stops working, while Telefónica assumes the remaining 20%. A proposal similar to the one that Desigual also adopted a few months ago.

This intermediate model between the original, without salary reduction, and the Belgian model, without reduction of hours, has not pleased some workers or the unions, who have demanded a four-day working week from Telefónica according to the original approach, which under no concept accepts that the wages of the workers be reduced.

Image | Marc Mueller

The four-day work week is gradually taking hold in companies, which are increasingly taking it into account in their long-term…

The four-day work week is gradually taking hold in companies, which are increasingly taking it into account in their long-term…

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