The five-day workweek is a cultural norm where a six-day workweek is reduced to only five days. This is the result of union advocacy in the early 1900s, and many people still wonder why we need to work from 9-5? So, the four-day workweek or compressed work schedule is an arrangement wherein the workplace allows employees to work for four days only instead of five.
This arrangement allows employees to have flexible working hours and sometimes cuts costs, like the 4/10 workweek, where employees can work 10 hours a day, four days a week. They can take Fridays, different days off, or half days when considering this four-day workweek. And, this four-ten work week can also be a fixed work schedule.
Over the last years, many countries have adopted the four-day model to improve productivity and provide their citizens with a better work-life balance. So, let’s see what countries already have a four-day working week as of 2022.
First, what’s the purpose of a four-day working week?
Well, the purpose of this four-day workweek is to balance the employees’ work and personal life. In 1930, John Maynard Keynes had a vision that humans would work only 15 hours a week. And, for unknown reasons, we work even more although there are more people on the planet and the technology has significantly improved.
This four-day arrangement allows the employees to go to work fewer days in a week and gives them time to do or pursue their hobbies, spend more time with the family, and rest well, which will make them more productive.
Nowadays, the number of countries that allow a four-day workweek has increased, which others have just experimented with, others allowed it as their action towards the Covid-19 horror, and others who just joined the group.
What countries already allow a four-day working week as of 2022?
They launched a trial four-day workweek in September 2021. This is a campaign promise by the ruling Scottish National Party.
Belgium is now introducing the four-day workweek to those who want it. However, employees will not be working less but will rather compress their work hours in fewer days, which means they will work very long hours if they choose to compress their work schedule hours.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo hopes that the model will help create a more dynamic economy and make it easier for people to combine their family lives with their careers.
Another country on the list is Iceland. They conducted a test phase on this four-day workweek from 2015 to 2019. During the test phase, their work hours were reduced from 40 hours to 35 or 36 hours, and they maintained their pay levels. A study has found that the well-being of those who participated has improved significantly, working processes have been optimized, there was a closer collaboration between colleagues, and their productivity has either stayed the same or improved.
After the test phase, trade unions and associations negotiated permanent cuts in working hours. As a result, some 86% of employees now have the right to a four-day week.
A four-day workweek was tested in Sweden in 2015, which had mixed results. Some parties think that it would be too expensive to implement this on a large scale, while on the other hand, some companies have chosen to keep reduced hours for their employees.
Known for its rigid work culture, Japan is entertaining changes to the standard workweek. The coronavirus pandemic brought about these changes. The country’s annual economic policy guideline, released in June 2021, unveiled the plans of pushing employers to adopt four-day workweeks.
The recommendation that companies adopt an optional shorter workweek is meant to support employees who want to further their education, take care of family members, or simply go out, spend money, and even meet others, as Japan’s population ages and shrinks.
Launched in 2019, the progressive party Más País included the four-day workweek as part of their platform, proposed the trial, and later won the government’s approval. Although the specifics remain undecided, the pilot, which is expected to launch in September and last three years, will use 50 million euros in European Union funding to compensate an estimated 200 companies for reducing their employees’ work week to 32 hours—without cutting their salaries.
The scheme was officially launched in June 2021. However, the coordinator of this four-day week hopes that it can act as a template elsewhere. So far, 20 companies have signed up for this four-day week up to a six-month pilot, which will reduce their work hours from February 2022.
United Arab Emirates
To boost productivity and improve work-life balance, the United Arab Emirates moves federal employees to a 36 hours work week (4.5 days). In addition, from January 1, 2022, the weekend will start at 12 p.m. local time on Friday and run until Sunday night, the government said. The current weekend runs from Thursday night to Saturday night.
The move would ensure “longer weekends to boost productivity and improve work-life balance,” the UAE Media Office tweeted.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested a four-day workweek to boost the country’s economy. Individuals will be given a chance to spend their long weekend for rest and recreation.
“Moving to a four-day week would be a win-win for companies,” Joe Ryle, director of the Four Day Week Campaign in the U.K., said Tuesday in a phone interview. “Studies have shown that productivity improves along with corresponding gains in workers’ well-being.”
The United Kingdom pilot of a four-day workweek will begin in June with estimated 30 companies that have signed up for the trial. The six-month-long program allows staff to work 32 hours per week while leaving their compensation and benefits unchanged.
Some of these countries have permanently allowed the four-day workweek, and others are still in their test phase. The companies that have signed up for the trial or experimentation are from small start-ups to commercial giants.
The main goal of these countries in implementing and experimenting with this four-day workweek is to establish a more productive work life that balances with their personal life. Though some may have considered it because of the coronavirus pandemic scare, some studies found that this four-day workweek arrangement has helped improve the participants’ productivity and boost their economies.