The Four-Day Workweek: Which European Countries Are Considering It?

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Photo by TheStandingDesk on Unsplash

The idea of the four-day workweek has been around for some time now. Basically, it means that employees would work four straight days instead of five, during the course of a calendar week, for the same amount of workload and the same amount of money.

Those who advocate for the four-day work week, claim that if done right, employee satisfaction, and productivity would increase. This Idea has been widely recognized, especially among countries in the European Union.

Belgium to give employees the opportunity to choose

Belgian workers have been recently introduced to the right to choose between a four-day workweek or to continue with the standard full five-day workweek, without having to suffer a decrease in their salaries.

Belgian prime minister Alexander de Croo stated that the goal is to give people and companies more freedom to arrange their work time.

However, adopting the four-day workweek may present some drawbacks, especially if you take into consideration that workers will be expected to provide the same amount of output for 32 hours, instead of 40.

The UK will be conducting a six-month trial program this year

So far, almost 60 companies with more than 3,000 workers have agreed to try the program. It is expected to begin in June 2022, being closely monitored by experts from Cambridge and Oxford Universities. NGOs like 4-day week global, and the 4 Day Week UK Campaign have also joined the program.

With this program, workers will put the same amount of hours within the workweek, only they will do it in four days instead of the standard five.

Similar trials are also expected to start soon in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Iceland is one of the pioneers in the four-day workweek

In early 2015, Iceland initiated the trial for the 35-hour workweek instead of the traditional 40-hour workweek. The trial involved more than 2,500 workers.

After 4 years of thorough research on the topic, the researchers and the Icelandic trade unions claimed the program to be a success.

Researchers also found that workers were more resilient to stress and there have been fewer reported cases of working burnout.

Start-up companies in Germany are giving the four-day workweek a try

Based on information from the World Economic Forum, the average German works around 34.2 hours a week. However, trade unions are pushing for even fewer hours. According to some polls, more than 70% of German workers would embrace the idea of working four days instead of five per week.

Nevertheless, this idea has so far, been only accepted by some start us, the government, however, is still reluctant to make it mandatory by law.

Spain is thinking about starting a trial phase

At the beginning of the year, the Spanish government announced that it will be giving the 32-hour four-day workweek a try.

More than 200 SMEs with up to 6,000 workers will be participating in the trial phase. They will reduce the 40 to 32 hours per week while maintaining the same workload and salary per worker.

The trial program is expected to run for at least a year, but a starting date has not been determined yet.