The Four-Day Workweek: Implementation Where It Is Not Popular
In recent years, the idea of a four-day workweek has gained popularity as a way to improve work-life balance, boost productivity, and reduce stress. However, in many countries, such as Spain, it is still not a common practice. While some companies, such as Desigual and Telefonica, have experimented with the four-day workweek, others have been hesitant to adopt this new approach. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of a four-day workweek and why it could be a solution for work-life balance in countries like Spain.
What is a Four-Day Workweek?
A four-day workweek is a schedule in which employees work four days a week instead of the traditional five. Typically, employees work longer hours each day to make up for the lost day, but they still have an extra day off each week. A four-day workweek means employees will have more time to rest and recharge, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction. On some occasions, it represents a salary sacrifice.
In 2022, in the UK, there was a four-day week pilot program that led to really encouraging results. More information on this program is included in our previous article, “The 4-day week has come to stay.“
Benefits of a Four-Day Workweek
One of the main benefits of a four-day workweek is improved work-life balance. Employees who have an extra day off each week can use that time to pursue hobbies, spend time with family and friends, or relax. This can lead to reduced stress levels, improved mental health, and increased job satisfaction.
Another benefit of a four-day workweek is increased productivity. When employees have more time to rest and recharge, they are more focused and motivated when they return to work. Additionally, longer work days can help reduce the number of distractions that employees face during a typical workday. It allows them to be more productive. For the ones in the UK 4-day week program, 34% say that their business productivity has “improved a little,” and 15% say it has “improved a lot.”
A four-day workweek can also be beneficial for the environment. With fewer days in the office, there is less energy usage, which can help reduce the carbon footprint of a company. It also results in fewer expenses for the company in terms of office costs.
Companies Implementing a Four-Day Week in Spain
The Spanish government declared in February 2021 that it would allocate €50 million in financing to firms willing to experiment with a four-day workweek. It was an effort to evaluate whether productivity and well-being can be enhanced while keeping employees’ compensation unchanged.
Many businesses took advantage of state funding to test whether allowing their employees to work four days a week was favorable. Let’s analyze two opposite examples.
Desigual’s Positive Example
One company that has experimented with a four-day workweek in Spain is Desigual, a fashion retailer based in Barcelona. In 2018, the company implemented a four-day workweek for its employees, with longer workdays from Monday to Thursday.
Some 500 employees reduced their working hours from the current 39.5 hours to 34 hours. It also meant a 6.5% pay cut. This reduction means working 13% fewer hours per week, but salaries only decreased by half of that. The company absorbed the rest.
The measure was approved by 86% of workers. And the ones that did not agree with it were able to request a termination of the contract. The termination terms provided 20 days’ compensation per year worked at the company. The maximum compensation was nine months’ salary.
Desigual’s CEO, Alberto Ojinaga, said in an interview with Forbes that the four-day workweek had helped the company attract and retain talent, as well as boost morale. The experiment was a success, with employees reporting increased job satisfaction and productivity.
Once the 4-day week has been established, Desigual will increase its net benefit by 15% from 2021 to 2022.
What to Learn About Telefonica’s Rendition
In June 2022, 18,000 Telefonica’s employees had the option to work four days a week. After a month, they had to decide whether they enjoyed the program and would be eager to continue with it.
In that company, the salary was reduced proportionately to the hours worked. The company itself only assumed 20% of this pay cut. It meant that the salary sacrifice (nearly 16% of their total salary) was too big for many employees. 99% of employees later decided not to continue with this practice.
While the four-day workweek is still not a common practice in many countries, it could be a solution for improving work-life balance and boosting productivity. Companies like Desigual have shown that it is possible to implement a four-day workweek successfully. And more companies may follow suit in the future. The main difference between success and failure stories is how much the salary is reduced. The salary sacrifice should not be bigger than the benefits of resting one extra day.
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