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  • Writer's pictureVeit Hailperin

9 facts about the 4-day week that you should know

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Whether the Solothurn IT company Seerow, Iceland or Spain - the 4-day week (4DWW) is all over the news. Instead of five days, only work four and this while maintaining the same wage. Practically a 20% wage increase, paid in time instead of money. Can this work? There are a lot of half-truths about this and even more beliefs. Here are a few facts about the 4DWW that you should know.


The 4-day week can work


Let's be honest - can the 4-day week really work?


In short: Yes, it can work. In long: companies from a variety of industries such as production (e.g. Toyota), IT (e.g. Microsoft Japan, Rheingans) and accounting (e.g. Perpetual Guardian), among others, have successfully proven this. The spectrum ranges from small (e.g. Rheingans) to medium-sized (e.g. Perpetual Guardian) to large companies (e.g. Microsoft Japan).

A few companies, such as Swedish bioprinting manufacturer Cellink have failed to successfully implement the 4DWW. Whether the implementation fails or not, however, is not subject to chance.

Sectors such as sales and care are less suitable or still need additional solutions that have not yet been found. Interestingly, however, it was found that sick people received significantly better treatment when caregivers worked reduced hours.


5-hour day or 4-day week does not play a decisive role


Why a shortened work week and not shortened work days? Wouldn't shorter work days make more sense?


Conceptually, the 4DWW and the 5h day do not differ significantly. Both work for the same main reasons (increased efficiency and productivity made possible by shorter working hours) and for both the same factors must be considered when introducing the 4DWW, such as the active involvement of the employees.

Which model makes more sense for a company or a business must be decided on a case-by-case basis. For example, if a company wants to guarantee availability to customers, this is only possible for a smaller company by shortening the working days.

The shortened working hours implementations vary between 25 and 32 hours.


The 4-day week cannot be imposed


The 4DWW is not a magic bullet. It cannot be imposed and productivity does not magically skyrocket. The 4DWW is a cross-company or cross-enterprise project, which requires all participants to be actively on board. First and foremost, the employees and the management.


Implementation is crucial


In fact, implementation is key. There are many stumbling blocks on the way to a successful implementation of 4DWW, such as fears, tensions, concerns and interests of different stakeholders. An appropriate involvement of all stakeholders is important as well as a communication in which there are open ears for the passive resistances so that they can dissolve. Perhaps surprisingly, employees sometimes flee from home to work. One day less in the office can lead to stress. The list of stumbling blocks is long and therefore it is worthwhile to work with an organizational developer.


The 20% less work is more than compensated by increased productivity and efficiency


Everyone will quickly ask the question, how does it all work financially? The 4DWW can only work if the work of five days is done 80% of the time. The compensation needed for this comes from increased efficiency and productivity. But not by blindly eliminating the coffee break. Employees and teams develop measures themselves so that the measures actually fit and are supported. But also the prospect of something actually valuable - life time - releases the necessary energy and motivation. The measures taken are often diverse and individual and cannot be transferred verbatim from one company to another.

The companies that have successfully implemented this have all seen an increase in sales. At Microsoft Japan, the increase in productivity was as much as 40%.



The increased efficiency and productivity are maintained over time


Fair enough. Employees increase their efficiency and productivity, but doesn't it drop again after a year? This often happens after organizational development measures.


The introduction of the 4DWW is not only a structural shift. It is also a cultural change and in many cases will be accompanied by individual growth. The reason for this lies in the way it is implemented. Because the measures come directly from the implementing employees, tailored for them, they will feel right. Being able to shape one's own work will strengthen the feeling of self-efficacy. This will not be given up so quickly. At the same time, the 4DWW increases the overall satisfaction and health of employees. This has an additional positive effect on maintaining increased performance.


The majority of employees welcome the 4-day week


You like your job, and don't even want to work less? Congratulations - you belong to a happy minority!


Several studies show at irregular intervals that the majority of full-time working employees would like to work less and welcome the 4DWW.


The 3-day week is not under consideration


Will the 3-day week come after the 4DWW?


Possibly, but presumably the 4DWW must first become the new normal. That means maybe we'll talk about it again in 20-40 years. By then, the associated facts will probably be improved and new feasibility studies will provide information on how and whether the 3DWW can work. Currently, the 3DWW is not being seriously discussed anywhere for large parts of the economy and no one needs to be afraid of a slippery-slope effect.


The 4DWW is a unique selling proposition that attracts capable employees and achieves a competitive advantage in the marketplace


Competent, motivated and dedicated employees are not in abundance in any industry. Currently, companies with 4DWW are still in the minority.

But the successful rollout shows applicants that this company is indeed living a culture that is in high demand, especially among the young generation. Rheingans says they are inundated with good unsolicited applications.

The moment the state decides that this should apply to everyone - and experiments are being made, see Iceland for example - successful introductions become more difficult.

The companies and businesses that dare to take the lead now will have more sustainable stability in the medium and long term, both in terms of personnel and finances.


Photo by Alexas Fotos from Pexels

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