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Thursday, 25 March 2021

Business owners beware, workers rejoice

The push for four-day work week is finally gaining ground: Good news for everyone who isn’t a business owner, as Spain could become one of the global frontrunners in trialling the four-day work week (32 hours) as early as this autumn, the Guardian writes. The Spanish government greenlit the nationwide pilot project, which had been put forward by left-wing party Más País, for interested companies last month.

The pilot project’s details are still under negotiation, but lawmakers have proposed a three-year, EUR 50 mn project to cover the potential costs of reduced hours to companies, that would allow companies to trial the system with minimal risks. Companies could have 100% of potential costs covered in the first year, 50% the second year and 33% the third year, for example. “The only red lines are that we want to see a true reduction of working hours and no loss of salary or jobs,” said MP Héctor Tejero of Más País. Some 200 companies, employing anywhere between 3-6k workers in total, are expected to participate in the project’s first round, Tejero says.

What about productivity? Though workers in Spain generally put in more hours than the European average, the country as a whole is not one of the most productive. “Working more hours does not mean working better,” says Más País MP Iñigo Errejón. The project’s less material benefits include improving workers’ mental, physical and emotional health, fighting climate change, and enhancing work-life balance.

Will this work out? Unsurprisingly, right wing lawmakers view the proposal as “madness,” and maintain that the path out of the country’s worst recession since the civil war requires more, not less work. But Más País is hoping to build on the success of the southern Spanish software company DelSol which last year became the first in the country to implement the four day work week and saw a rise in productivity and in worker satisfaction.

The pilot will be the first national initiative of this magnitude to cut working hours since France moved to cap the work week at 35 hours in 1998. Officials in New Zealand had also recently discussed a shorter work week, while a coalition of lawmakers from the UK, Germany, and Spain appealed to the EU last year to adopt a four-day work week as a way to manage the economic fallout of covid-19 by redistributing work between the under, and overemployed.

Some corporations have taken individual action to enact shorter work weeks, with Microsoft Japan and US burger chain Shake Shack introducing four-day schedules in 2019. Other companies have followed suit after covid-19, with Unilever in New Zealand and Shopify in Canada also launching trials of their own.

READ THIS- An alternative path to work life balance is the Swedish tradition of “Lillördag” or Little Saturday: A midweek excuse to pamper yourself or celebrate with friends or family, this day is usually observed on Wednesdays. Since lockdowns around the world placed additional stress on work-life balance, perceiving Wednesday as Little Saturday helps make the week more bearable and helps people “create structure and fulfilment even when they’re feeling lost,” experts from the Stress Research Institute of Stockholm University told the BBC.

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