Spain Announces It Will Test Out A Four-Day Work Week

I'm fairly certain that I'm not the only person out there who likes their job, but still divides up the calendar by the mandated three-day weekends so I know what I have to look forward to. They're the little goals that help you get through those long stretches when it feels like you do nothing but work, recover from work, or get ready for work.

In recent years, there has been more interest in making those three-day weekends regular deals, with more consistent four-day work week schedules, and the trials so far have been successful enough that a country's government wants to give it a go and see for itself if it's a good idea to adopt full-time.

In Spain, several thousand workers will get to work shorter weeks as part of a new pilot program.

The idea is for the government to compensate companies that want to try four-day work weeks without reducing salaries.

The Spanish government accepted the proposal, light on details, from the left-wing Más País party, which would set aside €50 million over the next three years to let up to 200 companies, with a total of between 3,000 and 6,000 workers, try the shorter weeks, The Guardian reported. However, those proposals remain up for negotiation.

Four-day work weeks have slowly been gaining steam around the globe.

Unsplash | Scott Graham

Several smaller-scale pilot projects have had noteworthy successes with shorter work weeks. For example, Microsoft Japan tried a four-day work week in August 2019, without reducing pay, and found that productivity increased 40%, while the company saved money in other areas like electricity costs, which dropped 23%, and printing costs as employees ran off 60% fewer pages, NPR reported.

In New Zealand, trust management company Perpetual Guardian tried a four-day week for two months in 2018, and they also found the productivity increased, as did goodwill and morale among workers, CNBC reported. It was successful enough that the CEO recommended that the company's board make the change permanent.

Other research bears out the idea that less hours at work can be better for both workers and the company.

Unsplash | Alex Kotliarskyi

In a 2019 study, Britain's Trade Union Congress found that companies that require longer hours from their workers aren't getting a great return on their investment. While workers in Spain and Britain put in more hours than the average European, it was workers from countries with shorter average hours that were more productive. Workers in Denmark, for example, put in four fewer hours on average per week than British workers, but were 23.5% more productive.

"Spain is one of the countries where workers put in more hours than the European average. But we’re not among the most productive countries," said Más País's president, Iñigo Errejón, according to The Guardian.

However, while many companies have had success with four-day work weeks, it's never been tried at the level of a government.

Unsplash | A.R.T.Paola

"Spain will be the first country to undertake a trial of this magnitude," Héctor Tejero of Más País said, according to The Guardian. "A pilot project like this hasn’t been undertaken anywhere in the world."

Opponents of the pilot project have disputed the timing of it, with Ricardo Mur of CEOE Aragón calling it "madness" to try during a pandemic-caused recession. "Getting out of the crisis requires working more and not less," he said, according to Heraldo.

As it stands, the four-day work week pilot project won't begin until the autumn at the earliest.

Unsplash | J Shim

Understandably, many observers and other governments are keeping a watchful eye on the Spanish experiment, with proponents calling it overdue.

"Clearly the way that we work is making people stressed, burned out, overworked and causing massive workplace and mental health issues," Joe Ryle of the 4 Day Week Campaign told The Guardian. "The four-day week would be good for the economy, good for workers, and good for the environment. What's not to like about it?"

What do you think? Would you welcome a four-day work week, or do you think it's impractical? Let us know in the comments!

h/t: The Guardian

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