Is 4 Days a Week the New Global Working Policy?
In an innovative move to tackle workforce challenges, 45 companies and organizations in Germany are set to implement a 4-day workweek experiment for six months, beginning in February. Led by consulting firm Intraprenör in collaboration with the non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global (4DWG), this initiative aims to increase worker productivity and alleviate the skilled labor shortage faced by the country.
The experiment, endorsed by advocates who believe in the potential benefits of a shorter workweek, will see employees receiving their full salary despite working one day less. The motivation behind the initiative is to explore whether maintaining current output with fewer working hours could lead to higher productivity levels, especially considering Germany’s recent decline in productivity.
Germany, known for its industriousness and efficiency, has faced challenges in maintaining productivity due to high energy costs impacting companies’ output. Advocates argue that a 4-day workweek could attract more people into the workforce, catering to those unwilling to commit to a traditional five-day workweek.
The 4-day workweek model has been tested globally, with over 500 companies participating in pilot programs since 2019. Results from a UK experiment involving nearly 3,000 workers showed reduced stress levels, a 57% decrease in resignations, a two-thirds reduction in sick days, and an average revenue increase of around 1.4% in 56 out of 61 participating companies.
— 4 Day Week Global (@4dayweek_global) February 2, 2024
However, skepticism exists regarding the applicability of these results to the entire economy. Labor market expert Enzo Weber questions the generalizability of pilot project results, suggesting that companies suited to a 4-day workweek might disproportionately apply for such experiments.
Other skeptics, such as Holger Schäfer from Cologne’s German Economic Institute (IW) and economist Bernd Fitzenberg from Germany’s Institute for Employment Research (IAB), raise concerns about measuring productivity and the potential impact on certain industries where a 4-day workweek may be challenging to implement.
Despite the debates, the 4-day workweek concept continues to gain traction, even among established players like the German trade union IG Metall, advocating for shorter working hours in industries such as steel.
The six-month experiment in Germany will provide valuable insights into the feasibility and impact of a 4-day workweek on productivity, worker satisfaction, and addressing labor shortages. The results will undoubtedly contribute to ongoing discussions about modernizing work structures to meet the evolving needs of the workforce.