What Is a 4-Day Workweek? (2023)

A 4-day workweek is a working arrangement that allows employees to complete their weekly hours within four days instead of the traditional five, giving them an extra day off. While not all 4-day workweek arrangements are the same, they generally involve either working fewer hours in total over the course of the week or working the same number of hours but condensed into four days. One common method used in 4-day workweek trials is the "100-80-100" approach, where workers are paid 100% of their existing pay for working 80% of their time while maintaining 100% productivity/output [[SOURCE 1]].

Countries with a 4-Day Workweek

While the concept of a 4-day workweek has gained attention in recent years, there are only a few countries that have implemented it nationwide or passed laws granting it as a universal freedom for all workers. Here are some countries where the 4-day workweek is more common or where existing laws are helping accelerate the transition:

  1. Belgium: Belgium became the first European country to legislate a 4-day workweek in 2022. Workers can now complete their standard 5-day workweek hours in 4 days, providing more flexibility for individuals and companies [[SOURCE 1]].

  2. United Arab Emirates: In the United Arab Emirates, all government employees have the option to work a 4-day workweek since July 1, 2023. This change affects nearly 90% of the UAE's workforce, as the majority are employed by the government [[SOURCE 1]].

  3. Iceland: Iceland has one of the highest percentages of workers on a 4-day workweek. After conducting a large-scale trial between 2015 and 2019, it was found that almost 90% of Icelandic workers have reduced working hours every week [[SOURCE 1]].

  4. Lithuania: Although Lithuania doesn't have a blanket law enforcing a 4-day workweek, it enacted legislation in 2021 that allows parents with young children to work 32 hours a week. This effectively means that parents in Lithuania are working the equivalent of a 4-day workweek [[SOURCE 1]].

  5. France: While France doesn't legally enforce a 4-day workweek, it's increasingly common for businesses in the country to offer this arrangement. France's Labor Ministry reports that 10,000 workers already work a 4-day week, thanks in part to the country's 35-hour workweek law implemented in 2000 [[SOURCE 1]].

Countries Trialing the 4-Day Workweek

Several countries have conducted or are currently conducting trials of the 4-day workweek to assess its impact on productivity and employee well-being. Here are some examples:

  1. United Kingdom: In the UK, a large-scale trial involving 61 companies and over 2,900 workers took place. Remarkably, 92% of the participating companies continued with the 4-day workweek after the study, with 18 companies confirming it as a permanent change to their company policy [[SOURCE 1]].

  2. United States/Ireland: In 2022, a 6-month trial of the 4-day workweek was conducted in the US and Ireland, involving 900 workers across 33 companies. Participants rated the experience highly, with 97% expressing a desire to continue with the 4-day workweek [[SOURCE 1]].

  3. Spain: The city of Valencia in Spain implemented a trial by scheduling four local holidays on consecutive Mondays, giving participating workers an extra day off per week. The trial showed positive results, including improved worker health and reduced fuel emissions due to less commuting [[SOURCE 1]].

  4. South Africa/Botswana: South Africa initiated its own trial of the 4-day workweek in March 2023, involving 28 businesses. The experiment demonstrated a 40% decrease in stress, a 75% decline in burnout, and an improved work-life balance for participants [[SOURCE 1]].

  5. Japan: Despite its reputation for long workweeks, Japan conducted a trial of the 4-day workweek in 2019. The trial, conducted by Microsoft Japan, resulted in participants being around 40% more productive after their hours were compressed [[SOURCE 1]].

  6. Canada: In 2022, Canada ran a trial involving 41 companies, with 35 of them reporting their intention to continue with the 4-day workweek. The companies had the flexibility to decide how to reduce hours while ensuring it didn't negatively impact output [[SOURCE 1]].

  7. Portugal: Portugal recently started a 6-month trial involving 39 corporate businesses. With almost three-quarters of Portuguese workers currently working more than 40 hours a week, the trial aims to explore the effects of a reduced workweek on productivity [[SOURCE 1]].

  8. Brazil: Brazil's 4-day workweek trial began in September 2023, involving 20 companies employing over 400 workers. The trial is the first of its kind in Latin America, and participating businesses were selected from a large pool of applicants [[SOURCE 1]].

Countries with Shorter Workweeks

In addition to countries that have implemented or trialed the 4-day workweek, some countries have gradually reduced the total number of hours their workforce is required to work. Here are a few examples:

  • Denmark: Denmark has one of the shortest workweeks globally, with a minimum requirement of 33 hours per week [[SOURCE 1]].
  • Netherlands: The Netherlands boasts an average workweek of just 29 hours, making it the shortest in Europe [[SOURCE 1]].
  • Vanuatu: Vanuatu, an island nation, has an average workweek of only 24.7 hours, significantly shorter than many other countries [[SOURCE 1]].

Should My Company Offer a 4-Day Workweek?

Implementing a 4-day workweek depends on various factors, including the financial stability of your business and its current operational structure. While the evidence from trials suggests that a 4-day workweek can improve employee well-being without sacrificing productivity, it's essential to consider your specific circumstances.

Financially, you need to assess whether your business can handle the potential costs associated with a 4-day workweek. Additionally, some industries, such as daily newspapers, may face challenges in transitioning to a 4-day workweek due to the need for continuous operations.

If you decide to implement a 4-day workweek, it's crucial to involve your employees throughout the process and gather feedback. Not all departments or teams may benefit equally from this arrangement, so it's essential to consider individual needs and preferences.

Alternatively, if a 4-day workweek isn't feasible for your business, there are other flexible working options to explore. Remote work and flexible scheduling, such as "Summer Fridays," can provide employees with increased flexibility while maintaining productivity.

In conclusion, the 4-day workweek is gaining traction in various countries, with some nations implementing it nationwide and others conducting trials. While the benefits of a 4-day workweek are promising, it's crucial to evaluate your business's specific circumstances before making any changes to working arrangements.


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