NOnly work four days a week but get paid for five days? Around 70 companies with 3,300 employees are now trying this out in Great Britain. It is said to be the largest pilot project in the world. It is organized by the group 4 Day Week Global, which is campaigning to reduce working hours to 32 hours a week.
It is mainly smaller companies that take part. The industries are different. The list includes a Norfolk seaside fish and chip shop, Sheffield-based software company Rivelin Robotics, inheritance tax adviser Stellar Asset Management and Kent-based alternative finance firm Charity Bank. A few months ago, the online bank Atom and the software company WANdisco started similar experiments with a four-day week. Her hope is that the employees will become happier and more motivated and productivity will increase. “100-80-100” is the magic formula promised by the organizers: 100 percent productivity with 80 percent working hours and 100 percent wages.
The sociologist Juliet Schor from Boston College, who is accompanying the pilot project academically with others and evaluating the results, calls it a “historical attempt”. She examines how employees react to the extra day off. Specifically, they expect less stress and burnout, more job satisfaction, less employee turnover and fewer layoffs, and overall higher productivity. The four-day week would yield a “triple dividend”, namely for employees, companies and the climate, she is optimistic.
Because the companies participate voluntarily, they have a good feeling that the experiment will work for them. However, she also suggests that “in order to expand the four-day week across the economy, it takes government action to bring in companies that either can’t see the benefits or for which the benefits are smaller,” Schor told FAZ Joe O ‘Connor of the 4 Day Week Global group says more and more companies are now discovering as the pandemic winds down that they need to offer their employees something new to remain competitive. Shorter working hours are a competitive advantage.
differences in production and services
One of the participating companies is the small craft beer brewery Pressure Drop Brewery in Tottenham, north London. “Everyone around the world needs to change the way they live and work,” says founder Sam Smith. However, the brewery boss admits that for a company like his that manufactures physical products, the challenges of a four-day week with full wage compensation are greater than for service providers who can organize their work more flexibly.
The group 4 Day Week Global, based in New Zealand, writes that their studies have shown that this is possible. In previous pilot projects, almost two-thirds of companies saw advantages in recruiting new employees with a four-day week. And, unsurprisingly, the vast majority of participating employees said they were happier and less stressed.
In parallel with the current UK pilot, similar trials are being prepared in Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, says the campaign group. There were also individual tests in Sweden and Finland. Years ago, the Icelandic capital Reykjavík attempted a radical reduction in working hours for local government employees. In Spain, the left-wing splinter party “Más País” suggested introducing the four-day week nationwide.
Germany is not going along
There are currently no major trials in Germany. The Education and Science Union (GEW) recently published the demand for the introduction of a “32-hour week with full wage compensation for everyone” under the title “Feminist Time Policy”. IG Metall also flirted with the idea. The President of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Marcel Fratzscher, said two years ago that a reduction in working hours to a four-day week is conceivable – but not with full wage compensation. For companies, this would effectively mean a significant increase in hourly wages and thus rising costs that many could not bear.
In view of the pressing shortage of staff in many companies, the idea of a radical reduction in working hours across the board seems a bit outdated. Recent statements by the head of the employer-related Institute of German Economics (IW) tended to go in the opposite direction: he called for an increase to a 42-hour week – with a corresponding salary increase.