Now that the world is accustomed to a 24/7 global economy, studies on trials make abuzz about reducing the average work hours for employees and starting to weigh in options for a more effective work-life balance.
Groups of companies and researchers shed light on the idea of practicing a Four-Day Work Week among employees. This concept aims to shift perspective and show that there can be significant changes in employees’ total productivity and well-being.
With the pressure put about by a global pandemic, the burden for aiming that work-life balance has affected how everything works.
The four-day workweek trial was first started in the City Council of Reykjavik and the Icelandic national government from 2015-2019, with 2,500 workers, which is more than one percent of Iceland’s working population. It was said to be the joint project of Autonomy and the research organization, Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda).
The results of the said experiment were gathered from 66 different workplaces, where participants have to work 35-36 hours without any reduction in pay.
According to the researchers, upon gathering the results, they concluded that the
“Transformative positive effects” are indeed beneficial in the different operations of both employees and businesses.
“This study shows that the world’s largest-ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success,” Will Stronge, director of research at the think tank Autonomy, said in a statement to The Washington Post.
Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda said, “The Icelandic shorter working week journey tells us that not only is it possible to work less in modern times but that progressive change is possible too.“
The Icelandic findings have gained interest and countries around the world are on par.
On March 5, 2018, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand estate firm, also conducted a trial on its 240 staff to test productivity, motivation, and quality output by changing its work model for eight weeks.
This project was in association with Coulthard Barnes, The University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and MinterEllisonRuddWatts, and Perpetual Guardian.
Founder Andrew Barnes opted to proceed with the trial after seeing several reports on productivity and pushing further the trial after reading several global reports.
Barnes said the decision to test the new way of working was “the right thing to do. We want people to be the best they can be while they’re in the office, but also at home. It’s the natural solution.”
“It’s not just having a day off a week — it’s about delivering productivity, meeting customer service standards, meeting personal and team business goals and objectives,” he further added.
Its post-trial results display a significant increase in work-life balance, from 54 percent to 78 percent; stress levels from 45 percent decreased to 38 percent; and commitment rate from 68 percent to 88 percent.
Similar to Iceland’s trial, no reduction in their salary wages, shortened meetings, and the regular workload was applied.
As of writing, Perpetual Guardian is now observing a four-day workweek after seeing tremendous growth in employees.
On the other hand, in a Facebook Live video, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern openly suggests that businesses that are capable of operating in this system may do so.
“I’ve heard lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week, ultimately that really sits between employers and employees…There’s lots of things we’ve learned about COVID and just that flexibility of people working from home – the productivity that can be driven out of that, ” PM Arden said.
Unilever New Zealand is currently assessing its 81 participants if the four-day workweek is feasible to its 155,000 employees worldwide.
Japan is known as the country for its overwork culture. It even coined a term in the 1970s, “karoshi”, or overworking death, and the numbers over the years have proven that it has been a problem in the Japanese workforce.
In 2020, the number of people committing suicide due to work problems reached 1,918 in Japan. The death numbers peaked in 2011 with almost 2,700 suicide victims in total.
Furthermore, in a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an average Japanese worker worked 1,598 hours in the year 2020.
Microsoft Japan tried a four-day workweek for the entire organization calling the project, “Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019,” in August 2019.
There were approximately 2,300 employees who were given five Fridays off, with no reduction in salary and no days taken out of their annual leave.
A year later, the company released the results and revealed that the productivity rate increased by almost 40 percent, in a report by Nikkei x TECH.
In a Mashable SE article, Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said, “Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot. It’s necessary to have an environment that allows you to feel your purpose in life and make a greater impact at work,” said.
He further added, “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20 percent less working time.”
The Trade Union Congress (TUC), a center in supporting trade unions all over the United Kingdom (UK), supports this proposition, last September 2019.
Through the 4 Day Week Campaign, supported by the UK’s think tanks, Autonomy and New Economics Foundation, stated a report that this proposal does not only benefit employees and businesses alike, but also the economy as a whole.
“A four-day week doesn’t necessarily address that problem specifically, but it does open up the discussion of what we value as work and why we value it, and what else could we start valuing,” says Rachel White of the 4 Day Week Campaign.
“A huge amount of money is lost by employers through sick days because of overwork. By moving to a four-day week, you could cut the number of sick days,” White added through Equal Times.
Joe Ryle, of 4 Day Week UK Campaign encourages people to reconsider the work routines now that the world is in the middle of the pandemic.
Ryle shared that, “The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the world of work up in the air, offering a much-needed opportunity to rethink how we work.”
The 4 Day campaign thinks that cutting the number of workdays can potentially increase the bargaining power of all employees, regular or freelance workers. Based on a report from Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s 2018 report, four million workers are living in poverty, a rise of more than half a million over five years.
The campaign wrote an open letter addressing the initiative to several world leaders including, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Irish politician Taoiseach Micheál Martin, and Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford.
Lastly, it specifically enables the country to sort out its problems in job polarization, mental health and stress absenteeism, low productivity, gender inequality, and the impact of present and future automation.
Spain has long been a pioneer when it comes to labor reform, tracing back to the 1590s during King Philip II’s reign.
Más País, a political party and electoral platform led by Iñigo Errejónm happily shared on his Twitter account that the government of Spain accepted the proposal, February 7.
The proposal lists approximately 400 Spanish volunteer companies to participate in the said project, putting in 50 million Euros (approximately 3 billion Pesos). The government reassured that it will make reparations to the businesses participating in the movement.
Just like the other participating countries, Héctor Tejero, political coordinator of Más País, believes that this project will be undeniably beneficial to almost all sectors in the society, from improving employee wellbeing, reducing carbon emissions, increasing gender equality, and raising productivity.
Meanwhile, other countries like Germany, Finland, Canada, Philippines are still in discussion and consider this proposal to remain controversial.
Government officials in Germany remain reluctant especially as the unemployment rate continues to increase, and employers appear to be uncertain of the idea.
Steffen Kampeter, Director General, Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, argues that switching to a shorter workday can possibly worsen and might cause an “enormous productivity shock.”
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin proposed the idea of a flexible 6-hour, 4-day workweek that was heavily ignored by the opposition and said that the idea seems to be “unrealistic.”
However, since taking office, no updates have been lifted.
Zorra Township is a rural municipality located at the northwest corner of Oxford County in Canada, is taking part in an eight-month test project. The first leg of the pilot ran from September to December 2020. It was paused as staff worked remotely for the first half of 2020 due to the pandemic.
But the second four-month installment kicked off in the first full working week of July.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged this idea, however, is more focused on the pandemic, now that businesses are starting to open.
“I think there are a lot of people thinking creatively about what the post-COVID world could look like,” he said. “And I look forward to hearing a wide range of suggestions. But right now, we’re very much focused on getting through this particular crisis,” said PM Trudeau.
A house bill in the Philippines filed by Representative Winston Castelo, House Bill No. 5237 or “An Act Mandating Four Day Work Week in Public and Private Sectors, requiring Thereby Ten Hours of Work Daily and for Other Purposes.”
The proposed bill is said to mandate a four-day workweek from Monday to Thursday in all sectors, requiring employees to render 10 hours of work.
The said bill was filed to lower operating costs while the business copes with its expenses and at the same time pays workers according to labor standards.
A Policy Brief published by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) containing the different sources of arguments and points of the said bill.
However, agencies have adopted this proposal temporarily when DOLE permits agencies to observe a four-day workweek as a precautionary measure due to the pandemic.
All things considered, this motion may trace mixed results in different countries worldwide, but based on the results presented by researchers, this proposal strongly defines it as a movement for a sustainable future in the workforce.
Source: https://autonomy.work/portfolio/icelandsww/, https://www.4dayweek.com/four-day-week-trial, https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/6a142f_36162778914a46b3a00dcd466562fce7.pdf, https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AEMdueMC4JP3vBo&cid=DDB0904599F0629B&id=DDB0904599F0629B%21688&parId=DDB0904599F0629B%2111663&o=OneU