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30 May 2024

4-day work week: what is the current situation and how does it affect workers' well-being

The 4-day workweek, or “compressed workweek , ” has become a topic of increasing interest in recent years, in response to growing concerns about employee well-being, productivity and environmental impact.

However, the adoption and diffusion of the 4-day working week currently varies from country to country and from sector to sector and only some of the most forward-thinking companies are already experimenting with the initiative.

We therefore understand better what it is, what it means to work only 4 days a week, what it would entail in practice and what the advantages could be for the employee and for the company.

4-day work week: examples from around the world

Here are some concrete examples, to provide an overview of the adoption of the 4-day working week in the world.

4 day working week in Europe

Some European companies - for example in Sweden, Scotland and Finland - have already experimented with the 4-day working week with positive results, in terms of employee satisfaction and productivity. However, other European governments are already considering policies that encourage or support more flexible working hours.

4 day working week in New Zealand

In New Zealand, wealth management firm Perpetual Guardian had trialled a 4-day working week as early as 2018, reporting significant benefits for employees, including improved work-life balance.

4 day work week in Japan

Even in Japan, a country known for its long working days, there have been some experiments with adopting a shorter working week. For example, Japanese marketing company Pasona Group implemented a 4-day work week for some employees, reporting a resulting increase in productivity.

4-day work week in the United States

While work culture in the United States often has a reputation for being the opposite, there have also been some experimental company-level initiatives here that have implemented more flexible work models, including the 4-day work week. However, in the USA this formula is not yet as widely adopted as in other parts of the world.

4 day work week in Iceland

Recently, Iceland attracted international attention for conducting a 4-day work week experiment. This experiment, called the "Reykjavik Experiment", was conducted between 2015 and 2019 in collaboration between the Icelandic government and trade unions, involving thousands of workers in different companies and organizations.

Preliminary results from this experiment indicated that a shorter work week can lead to significant improvements in employee well-being, including greater job satisfaction, improved work-life balance and reduced stress .

Furthermore, there appeared to be no negative impact on the productivity or profitability of the companies involved.

This experiment was widely considered a success and sparked interest around the world, as the Icelandic experiment demonstrated that a shorter working week can not only be feasible, but is also more beneficial for all parties involved.

Overall then, while the 4-day workweek is gaining ground as a possible solution to improve employee well-being and productivity, its widespread adoption depends on a combination of cultural, regulatory and economic factors, different in each region. .

But what is happening in Italy instead?

The 4-day working week in Italy

In Italy, the 4-day working week is not yet as widespread a practice as in other countries; however, there have been debates and discussions on the topic here too.

Some Italian companies, especially those in the tech and startup sectors, are adopting more flexible working models, including short working weeks, as part of initiatives to improve the working environment and attract talent.

To date, Intesa Sanpaolo, Luxottica, Sace and Lamborghini are already introducing the four-day working week.

However, there are also obstacles to overcome, including traditional work culture, labor laws and union regulations, which can make implementing more flexible work schedules more complex.

In summary, while there are the first signs of interest towards the 4-day working week in Italy, its large-scale adoption may still require time and a combination of cultural, legislative and economic changes, but we try every day to take a step after you.

The benefits of the 4-day working week for worker well-being and for increasing company productivity

During some experimental tests , the vital parameters of 400 people were monitored over a period of more than a year (13 months) and 24 hours a day.

In this period of time, for statistical purposes the subjects under examination were asked to take 2/3 periods of leave from work, of approximately 12 days each, and their state of well-being and productivity was therefore monitored upon their return from work .

The results collected during the holiday period can be easily summarized with:

- an increase in physical activity , undeniably closely related to the psycho-physical health of individuals;

- a decrease in time spent sitting ;

- an increase in the hours and quality of sleep .

However, as regards the effects on work , which cannot be reduced to a foreseeable decrease in stress , further tests were carried out, analyzing several UK companies, and it was demonstrated that, upon returning from holidays, the subjects examined were also much more productive and efficient.

Scotland, Wales, Germany, Canada, Spain, Iceland and Japan are today decidedly pioneers in this sense, as are some global giants such as Microsoft, Unilever and other large multinationals, but perhaps soon they will not be the only ones.

Same salary, fewer working hours and more productivity: but how is this possible?

It doesn't seem "feasible", but it is like this: the solutions adopted by individual companies obviously vary based on internal dynamics, the specific sector, size, number of employees and monthly workload.

In some cases - for example - the daily working hours were increased, distributing part of the "lost" working hours over the remaining 4 days.

the practical advantages of the 4-day working week do not end here:

companies save on electricity and heating.

● The environmental impact is reduced .

● Increase free time for employees, thus reducing stress, burnout and the number of sick days.

The employee saves on transportation.

Productivity is increased.

As we have already said here, smart working also contributes significantly in this sense; the combination of these two elements could therefore certainly represent a significant turning point for the environment and for a new approach - healthier and more productive - to the world of work.

However, it is immediately clear that adopting or not the compressed working week should be an overall choice and not just the individual's, in order to bear fruit and guarantee maximum efficiency from an organizational point of view.

Are there any cons?

To date, no negative impact of the four-day work week has been noted , either economically, productively or qualitatively. As we were saying, however, the success of the initiative can vary considerably from sector to sector and also depends on the tasks of the workers (for office workers, this solution is usually more easily applicable than manual work).

4-day working week and company welfare

The 4-day working week is often seen as an integral part of Corporate Welfare policies, as it also aims to improve employee well-being, but Welfare is much more than this.

Corporate Welfare has always included a series of initiatives, programs and benefits provided by the company to improve the quality of life of employees.

The 4-day work week can be considered one of them; the two roads run in parallel, but Welfare is not limited to this aspect alone!

Here are some examples of what Corporate Welfare can add to the 4-day work week:

training and professional development, thus increasing the work skills of employees, speeding up and optimizing work.

Flexible working hours.

Support for families, young people and the elderly.

● Specific fringe benefits .

Health insurance .

Stress management and wellbeing programs or psychological support.

Concrete answers and support in daily choices, with Euty.

Green economy , supporting sustainability.

Vouchers in the tourism, sports, cultural and leisure sectors.

As we know, the term "welfare" itself derives from the English word "well-being" , therefore Corporate Welfare can only fully share the ideals of those who are moving towards the 4-day working week.

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