The issue of the 4-day week has been on the agenda in Europe for a long time. Many countries have already successfully experimented with it. Now, as part of a pilot project, about 50 companies in Germany are going to introduce a shortened working week starting on February 1, 2024. 4 Day Week Global, an organization involved in the UK trial, supported this decision.
The experiment will continue until July 30. At the same time, the salaries of the employees will remain at the same level. The consulting agency Intaprenör has been involved in the organization of the work process. The main question to be answered by experts is whether such a schedule will have an impact on productivity.
Sophie Jänicke, a member of the executive board of the German metalworkers' union IG Metall, says that such a schedule will first and foremost help maintain the work-life balance, which will make companies more attractive to highly qualified employees. The introduction of the 32-hour week was strongly supported by IG Metall.
In the spring of 2023, polls showed that 55% of Germans did not think a 4-day work week with full pay was reasonable. But opinion has changed since then. The latest survey shows that around 81% of workers in Germany would like to see a 4-day week, but 73% of them would only agree to this if wage levels were maintained.
The transport company Flibco was the first in Luxembourg to test a 4-day week. The pilot project will last one year with a 32-hour workweek at full wage level, company representatives said.
Such a schedule was also discussed at the state level, the Minister of Labour Georges Engel spoke about it. However, it should be remembered that it is not so easy to introduce a shorter working week throughout the country. The Luxembourg government is now collecting analyses and research on how such a schedule would affect the productivity and health of employees.
Belgium moved to a 4-day work week earlier. It is the first country in Europe to introduce such a schedule at the legislative level. From February 2022, employees have the right to choose between a full week (five days) or a shortened week (four days) without loss of pay. However, the shorter schedule increases the length of the working day. Such an option was also discussed in Luxembourg, but did not find public support.
Shortening the working week is a concern for companies around the world. In recent years, pilot projects have appeared not only in European countries, but also in Japan, New Zealand and the United States. In the vast majority of cases, the results have been positive: workers' health and well-being have improved, and productivity levels have risen.
Experts also point to positive effects on the planet's climate. Juliet Schor, an economist and professor of sociology at Boston College (USA), notes that countries with shorter workweeks have lower carbon dioxide emissions. It also helps to reduce energy consumption and change lifestyles.