Is the four-day working shift more productive?
Several companies in Spain are moving towards a four-day working shift, as has already been done in countries such as Iceland, where the experiment has been a success. And the question is inevitable: does this reduction make us more productive, does it improve our well-being?
“People have to work eight hours, rest eight hours and enjoy another eight hours”. This was the slogan of the campaign created by Robert Owen in 1817, almost two centuries ago, to regulate working shifts that exploited workers in factories around the world, in the midst of industrialization. The proposal eventually succeeded, country after country, and reached Catalonia 100 years later.
Specifically, in 1919, thanks to La Canadenca strike, the workers’ movement that won the eight-hour working shift in our country. Today, more than 100 years after that historic moment, it is a good time to ask ourselves if a four-day working shift (35 hours) would be more productive?
Success, experiment, or imposition?
Iceland, with a population of just over 350,000, has been the pioneer country in pushing for shorter working shifts. Between 2015 and 2019, a pilot test was carried out among public sector workers, who went from working the usual 40 hours to 35, and with the same salary. The results were a success.
As analyzed by Iprofesional, the workers who participated were more productive and improved their well-being. In short, they felt a better balance, both at work and in their personal lives, reduced the level of work-related stress and had more free time to dedicate to their families and hobbies. The experiment was so positive that, today, a large part of Iceland’s workers, approximately 86%, enjoy shorter working shifts for the same salary.
Examples are growing
Spain has not wanted to stay behind, either. The first company to introduce the four-day working shift was the software brand Delsol, which in January 2020 introduced the change to a workforce of 200 workers without any reduction in salary. Companies such as the digital consultancy Good Rebels, the technology company Zacata Systems and the restaurant group La Francachela have also followed this path.
In addition, this July, the UGT and CCOO unions signed an agreement with Telefónica España, which will promote a pilot test that began this October and will last for three months. There is also the recent case of the fashion firm Desigual, where 86% of workers have voted this October in favor of introducing a four-day working shift, three face to face days and one teleworking day, in exchange for a 6.5% reduction in salary. Although the change is already implemented for a workforce of around 500 employees, the majority unions consider both the election of the workers’ representatives and the meetings prior to the vote to be illegitimate, and are prepared to take the company to court.
More productive companies, happier workers
It seems that step by step, however, this new way of working is becoming more and more common. We can also see this in examples such as the 4 Day Week Foundation, which has launched a campaign to collect signatures from workers around the world. The organization claims that 78% of workers who work four days a week feel happier, while 64% of companies see an increase in productivity. The page, which has already received more than 30,000 signatures, shows a list of the companies where more workers have signed in favor of the measure, the cities where more people have signed the petition and the names of the people who more money have given to the Foundation.
Are we facing a real change in our working shift? For the moment, it is clear that the future of a four-day working shift is on the table. While we are still deciding whether to apply it or not, in our country we are still under the influence of Robert Owen: “Eight hours to work, eight hours to rest and eight hours to enjoy”.
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