Will the 4-Day Workweek Take Hold in Europe?  

9 August 2019:

Work four days a week, but get paid for five? It sounds too good to be true, but this debate is front and center within numerous European economies, not only because of a culture shift toward accommodating flexible working but also because some evidence suggests it’s good for business. Many organizations in Europe are cutting workweeks, though not wages, from 36 hours (five days) to 28 hours (four days) to reduce burnout and make workers happier, more productive, and more committed to their employers.

The four-day workweek is not a new idea: France implemented a reduction of working hours (les 35 heures) almost 20 years ago to create better work-life balance for the nation. The measure is still heavily debated, with proponents saying it created jobs and preserves work-life balance and critics saying it reduces the competitiveness of French firms.

Leading today’s trend is the Netherlands, where the average weekly working time (taking into account both full-time and part-time workers) is about 29 hours — the lowest of any industrialized nation, according to the OECD. Dutch laws passed in 2000 to protect and promote work-life balance entitle all workers to fully paid vacation days and maternity and paternity leave.

Many UK organizations are also playing with the idea. Last month, one of us (Ben) worked with colleagues at Henley Business School to survey 505 business leaders and more than 2,000 employees in the UK to better understand the impact of the four-day week on Britain’s modern workforce. The results show a mixed bag of benefits and costs.

Half of the UK business leaders we surveyed reported that they’ve enabled a four-day workweek for some or all of their full-time employees, noting that employee satisfaction has improved, employee sickness has reduced, and savings of almost £92 billion (around 2% of total turnover) are being made each year.

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Source: Harvard Business Review

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