4-day workweek: the key to happiness?

4-day workweek: the key to happiness?

In the present socio-economic context, many companies are thinking about changing their employees’ work schedule. Aiming for increased productivity and a better work-life balance, some of them have invited their staff to test the 4-day workweek. And here’s the conclusion.

The 4-day workweek

It’s no secret that homeworking has been booming since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Changing the day-to-day life of many employees, this new work organization encouraged Human Resources to (partially or completely) review their work schedules, without impacting salaries. So far, the 4-day week has been the most successful formula for employees and employers.

This was the subject of our last survey on LinkedIn“What do you think of the 4-day workweek?”. Among 200 respondents, 81% would like to try it, and only 15% said they were not interested at all. The 5 remaining % are the lucky ones who have already shortened their workweek. A figure that is likely to rise in the upcoming months and years.

The Finnish case

Finland is a pioneer and has allowed its workers to adjust their working hours by starting or finishing three hours earlier or later since 1996. This flexibility is getting increasingly popular. That’s the reason Sanna Marin, the Prime Minister, has proposed a flexible working hours schedule in the country (a 6-hour working day, 4-day a week). This approach reflects the political will to allow people to spend more time with their families and to focus on other aspects of life, like their hobbies and culture. The trial of reduced working hours in neighboring Sweden recorded a rise in the productivity of the employees. The survey also showed that they were more relaxed and happier at work. It’s also good for the environment as it leads to a significant cut in carbon footprint (less commuting).

Several needs, one solution

The 4-day workweek meets several requirements:

  • For employees: to get more free time to develop projects, to do their favorite activities and to see their loved ones
  • For employers: to retain employees thanks to a flexible work environment and a particular attention to well-being

Depending on the country and the company, the work schedule’s modification is handled in diverse ways:

  • The same working time spread over 4 days (35, 38 or 39 hours a week depending on the country)
  • A reduced working schedule (from 40 to 36 hours a week, for example) with the same salary

Within companies and institutions offering this kind of solution, the effects on performance, fulfillment and motivation are amazing!

Implementation and test phase

Worldwide, the most impressive experiment on the subject concerns more than 3.000 employees of the Icelandic public services. Since 2015, hospital and school workers, as well as administrative employees, have reduced their effective working hours from 40 to 36 or even 35 hours per week. Depending on the constraints of their job, they have adopted new schedules while keeping the same salary level and the same benefits.

How does it work? Employees in Icelandic public institutions have reorganized their tasks to optimize their working time, by reducing the frequency of meetings daily and by shortening informal breaks, for instance. The workers involved in this large-scale operation are unanimously satisfied. They feel better and more involved in their work; they can see their loved ones more often; and they have time to play sports or do cultural/charitable activities every week.

On everyone’s lips

The positive results of this long-standing Icelandic experiment are being echoed elsewhere in the world. Belgium, at the federal level, is initiating discussions in favor of a flexible work schedule for employees in the private and public sectors: “The government is considering the possibility of working four days a week instead of five. A measure that could allow some workers to balance their professional and private life differently. Currently, the maximum working time is set at 8 hours per day and 38 hours per week in Belgium. To fit these 38 hours into 4 days, it would be necessary to increase the legal duration of daily working to 9.5 hours.” (Corentin Di Prima).

The pros of the 4-day workweek

This formula can be a real boon:

  • It increases the company’s attractiveness to young talent
  • It contributes to the development and well-being of employees
  • It boosts collective productivity

The 4-day workweek is definitively a remarkable success for employees who have tried it. In Iceland, more than 85% of workers benefit from a flexible work schedule. They recognize that they have improved their individual performance by being more focused and more relaxed. In their eyes, the main advantage is the time available for sports, cultural, associative, or family activities.

And you, are you ready to better disconnect in order to better work?