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Is the 4-Day Workweek Trend Spreading?

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The idea of the 4-day workweek began in the 1970s, but interest faded before any trials could be implemented. Due to the pandemic, however, companies had to figure out a new approach to working – out of necessity – and many employees shifted to work-from-home. The shift has caused a renewed interest in the 4-day workweek, with quite a few countries now trialing the alternative system.

Countries Implementing 4-Day Workweek

The first country to enact a 4-day workweek was Iceland. They piloted the largest experiment of a compressed work schedule globally. The government reduced working hours from 40 to 35/ per week without a cut in pay for 2,500 workers. Between 2015 and 2019, two trials for the shortened workweek were started. 

In March of 2018, New Zealand company, Perpetual Guardian, opted to switch over its employees to a 4-day workweek. The move caused a stir both at home and abroad, garnering international attention. And New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, opened a discussion to move the entire country to the shortened workweek. 

Microsoft Japan announced in August of 2019 that employees would be given paid days off on Fridays for the entire month. Due to the trial’s success, the Japanese government announced earlier this year that employees would have the ability to work four days per week if they wished, rather than the usual five, if they wanted. 

Japan adjusts their workweek.

Spain has recently announced that the country’s government has authorized a three-year trial of the 4-day workweek. This isn’t the first time Spain has fought to change working conditions for its people. In 1919, a month-and-a-half-long strike caused the country to become one of the first in Europe to shorten the workday to eight hours.

The most recent country to jump on the 4-day workweek trend is Scotland. A poll conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research showed something interesting. More than 80% of working-age Scottish people were for the institution of a shorter workweek, providing they didn’t have to take a pay cut. The country’s government is currently in discussions to implement a pilot program for the compressed work schedule.

Implementing the 4-day workweek has seen a lot of success for the countries that have enacted them. In Iceland, nearly 85% of workers who took part in the trials reported a massive improvement in their personal well-being, mental health, and work-life balance. At the same time, productivity didn’t decrease, and in some areas, it even surged.

Working a shortened work week allows for more family time.

Microsoft Japan’s month-long 4-day workweek test recorded a dramatic uptick in productivity. The employees who didn’t work Fridays in the month of August increased their efficiency by 40%. (And the company saw a 23% savings in electricity costs!)

The company, Perpetual Guardian, in New Zealand reported a 20% increase in productivity. And staff reported feeling less stressed and more satisfied with their work and the company as a whole. Team members cited more time with their families and increased time for hobbies as reasons for decreased stress and increased satisfaction. The founder of Perpetual Guardian, Andrew Barnes, also stated that overall costs decreased due to energy savings.

How do you feel about the 4-day workweek? Would you like to see the trend continue? Interested in more lifestyle articles or need more inspiration? Check out our other blogs.

Take care,
Team Ethical

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