Good response from pilot projects
Researcher: Four-day week “is definitely possible”
10/21/2022, 1:58 p.m
According to a work researcher, a four-day week can be implemented on a large scale. Studies have long shown an increase in productivity with shorter working hours. More and more companies are gaining experience with the model. The work is “more relaxed, planned, structured,” they say.
Work four days, three days weekend – and with the same salary? What sounds like wishful thinking to many has been reality for years in the plumbing business of Marcus Gaßner and his wife Ayleen Bauser. “It makes us much more relaxed, but also more planned and structured,” says Bauser. But is what works in the company at the foot of the Swabian Alb and also in other companies conceivable on a large scale – despite or precisely because of the lack of workers everywhere?
In Germany, the discussion recently went in a different direction: there was Industry President Siegfried Russwurm, who sympathized with the 42-hour week. Or overall metal boss Stefan Wolf, who brought retirement into play at 70. The argument: If the baby boomers are about to retire and there is less and less working population available, those who remain will have to work longer.
Labor researcher Philipp Frey from the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis counters: “Of course it is counterintuitive to say: ‘In a situation where we have rather few workers available, we are now reducing the working hours.'” But there are now a lot Good study situation on increasing productivity with a reduction in working hours. “Economically, it’s definitely possible.” The four-day week is merely a matter of design. The workforce would have to be involved, and individual working days should not be too long.
A study in Great Britain is currently trying to find out how it can work. A total of more than 70 companies are involved in the pilot project, which will initially grant their more than 3,300 employees one additional paid day off per week for a period of six months. Halfway through, 86 percent of the companies surveyed in an interim analysis said they could imagine the four-day week in the long term. 88 percent stated that the model works well in their everyday work.
“A way to work more effectively”
Daryl Hine, who is part of the management team at Stellar asset management in Liverpool, also draws a positive conclusion after the first few months. “In the beginning there was a lot of enthusiasm, but also some skepticism,” the manager recalls. The most important maxim is that work that used to take five days now has to be done in four. How does that work? “We use it as a way to work more effectively,” Hine explains. This partly includes automating work steps, but also questioning upcoming meetings – “Diary Detox” is what Stellar calls it.
In principle, Stellar wants to stick to the model – however, adjustments may be necessary in some areas so that the company’s goals can continue to be achieved in the long term. In stressful phases, it may be necessary for employees to give up their day off.
Experiments with the four-day week are also being or have been carried out in other countries. In Iceland, for example, a study of 2,500 employees showed that productivity remained the same or improved with a four-day week and mostly reduced working hours. Belgium even wants to make the four-day week possible nationwide. However, the weekly working time is not reduced.
From a historical point of view, there has been a trend towards reducing working hours over the past 200 years, says work researcher Frey. The 60-hour week has developed into a collectively agreed average of 38 full-time hours. The fact that this value has stagnated in Germany for 30 years is an absolute exception. The results in England also showed that the shortage of skilled workers was a key argument for the introduction of the four-day week for many companies – to present themselves as an attractive employer and to stand out from the crowd.
The German Confederation of Skilled Crafts is familiar with the argument, but the association is skeptical: This could be attractive for individual employees, but it also means that more skilled workers are not available overall. If you also press a 40-hour week into four working days, this can lead to very long absences from family and private life. Companies with such a working time model could then become less attractive, especially for women – and the pool of skilled workers could even become smaller, according to the association.
The four-day week is not a part-time model
Ten-hour days are also not in the cards of the trade unions, which are generally open to the idea. “Simply working more on each of the remaining four days increases the stress and is therefore not a solution from our point of view,” says IG Metall. In addition to the reduction in working hours, there must be wage compensation.
The chairman of the collective bargaining policy department at Verdi, Norbert Reuter, also demands this. Otherwise it is just a part-time model. From his point of view, it is also not expedient to set a possible reduction in working hours to four days. Rather, it must allow employees flexibility. Such a model is particularly feasible for large corporations.
The Gaßner sanitary facility in Denkingen, Baden-Württemberg, with its 13 employees, is anything but a large corporation. A middle course is taken here: the weekly working time has been reduced from 40 to 37 hours, the four-day week is optional. They had actually hoped for more applications, says Bauser. But that didn’t happen: “People are reluctant to enter into something new.” For example, there is the fear of being ordered to the construction site on the day off. But that doesn’t happen.
The four-day week plays a role for the applicants who introduce themselves to the company, but is not the main criterion. “People not only want to have free time, they also want to feel good.” Team meetings or a meal together once a month – that is worth more to many than an additional day off.