Would you like a 4 day work week?
Countries with a 4 Day Work Week
Although no country has fully adopted a 4 day work week, many of the countries below are experimenting with one or have a short average working week.
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4 Day Work Week in Australia
In August 2022, Australia initiated a significant shift in work culture by starting a pilot program for the four day work week. This trial, involving 20 companies, marked a pivotal change from the traditional five-day work schedule that most Australian employees were accustomed to.
This six-month trial saw employees working 80% of their typical hours while maintaining full pay, a revolutionary approach in Australia's work culture. A wide range of companies were included in the pilot, all the way from “finance to fashion.”
Orchestrated by 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit organization, this program is part of a broader initiative that also includes similar pilots in the UK and New Zealand, positioning Australia at the forefront of this global work revolution.
The outcomes of the Australasian 4 day work week pilot are compelling, demonstrating the potential impact of this initiative on the Australian workforce:
1. Trial Participants
- 26 companies participated in the trial, primarily located in Australasia, with participation from Europe and North America as well.
- Majority of the companies had 11-25 employees, with representation from various industries like Professional Services, Marketing/Advertising, and Manufacturing.
2. Business Outcomes
- Companies rated the overall impact of the 4-day week trial as 8.2/10.
- Attraction of new employees rated at 8.3/10 with the 4-day workweek.
- Productivity was rated at 7/10 and performance at 6.8/10.
- There was a 44.3% decrease in the number of sick and personal days taken per employee per month and an 8.6% decrease in average resignation rates.
- 95% of the companies wished to continue with the 4-day week model.
3. Employee Outcomes
- Employees rated the 4-day workweek trial as 9/10 with 96% wanting to continue.
- Over half (54%) reported an increase in their productivity compared to their lifetime best.
- Almost all participants (96%) reduced their worktime, with 88% getting one full additional day off per week.
4. Health and Well-being Outcomes
- 64% of employees experienced reductions in burnout and 38% felt less stressed with the 4-day workweek.
- Almost half of the workers reported a decline in negative emotions and an increase in positive emotions was reported by 62% of employees.
5. Work-life Balance Outcomes
- 65% of the employees were more satisfied with their time during the 4-day workweek.
- Conflict between work and family declined for 49% and 48% of employees respectively.
- Exercise frequency and duration rose for a significant proportion of the sample, and a significant number of men in heterosexual relationships increased their share of housework and childcare.
6. Environmental Outcomes
- Time spent commuting fell by 36 minutes per person per week during the trial.
- 42% of employees took up more environmentally friendly activities during the trial.
7. Future Prospects
- The trial results suggest a clear preference for the 4-day workweek model both from businesses and employees, showing promise for wider adoption in the future.
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4 Day Work Week in Austria
Although Austria hasn’t instituted a 4 day work week, many Austrian workers are interested in the idea. When surveyed, 1 out of every 2 Austrians said they would welcome a 4 day work week. Although there is no official pilot in place, some companies in Austria are starting to offer 4 day work weeks as an option to stay competitive.
Although most workers in Austria don’t have a 4 day work week, they still enjoy shorter working hours than workers in most countries. Austria ranks as the country with the 6th shortest work week in the world.
Working Hours in Austria
The average work week in Austria is 35.5 hours. According to the Austrian Working Hours Act, the work week cannot exceed 60 hours per week or 12 hours per day. On a 17 week basis, the work week cannot exceed an average of 48 hours. However, there are some exceptions to this, depending on factors such as the worker’s job or industry.
In Austria, typical office hours are from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many workers start as early as 8 AM.
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4 Day Work Week in Belgium
Although workers in Belgium have traditionally worked a 5 day work week, in early 2022, the Belgian government introduced a new labor market reform that allows workers to choose to work a 4 day work week.
Workers are still expected to maintain the same amount of hours, but now have the option to work 4 ten hour days. Workers are allowed to ask their employers for a six month trial period of the 4 day work week, after which they can choose to go back to the traditional 5 day work week if they prefer.
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Canada's Move Towards the 4-Day Work Week
Canada's exploration of the 4-day work week began in early 2022 with a pilot program led by 4 Day Week Global. By October, a second wave of companies joined, aiming to maintain full productivity with reduced hours.
This initiative aims to prove that a 20% reduction in work hours, without pay cut, can still sustain 100% productivity.
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4 Day Work Week in Denmark
Although most of Denmark hasn’t officially adopted a 4 day work week, it has the second shortest average work week in the world. According to an OECD report, the average work week in Denmark is only 33 hours long. This allows full-time workers in Denmark to spend about 66% of their day on rest and leisure.
In 2019, Denmark’s Odsherred Municipality introduced a 35 hour, 4 day work week. Employees are expected to work longer hours Monday through Thursday and be willing to be contacted outside of work in order to have Fridays off.
In1930s Denmark, companies began switching to a 5 day work week (previously 6 days). The standard working week is now 5 days per week, Monday to Friday.
Working Hours in Denmark
The average number of hours worked in Denmark has been falling over the last 20 years. In 1970, the average employee worked 35.2 hours, whereas the number dropped to 33.72 hours in 2021 (4% less). On average men work 33.1 hours per week and women work 29.5 hours.
The maximum weekly working hours by law is 48 hours on average, including overtime.
In Denmark, average hours worked per week varies by industry. Employees in the private sector work two hours longer on average than employees in the public sector.
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4 Day Work Week in France
It’s well-known that France has a legally mandated 35-hour work week that was established over 22 years ago in 2000. Now with the growing popularity of the four-day work week in Europe, more companies in France are seeing the benefit of reducing the work week to 32 hours and embracing a four-day work week in France. This makes perfect sense because French work culture often frowns upon workaholism.
A budding reason for this shift in France is growing environmental awareness. Companies and employees alike are realizing that by commuting fewer days to work, they can effectively improve their environmental footprint.
If France decides to fully implement the switch it could be expressed in two forms. Either employees will work 32-hour four-day weeks while being paid for 35 hours, or work 35-hour four-day weeks.
Working Hours in France
The standard working hours in France are usually between 8 AM to 4 PM or 9 AM to 5 PM. These hours include a 1-hour unpaid lunch break. Weekly, employees will work a total of 35 paid hours, which is structured at 7 hours a day for five days a week. Any longer than this is considered overtime.
A major positive is that French law is very strict when it comes to limiting working hours. The maximum working hours for an employee is capped at 10 hours a day and 44 hours a week. These hours include any overtime worked. The average employees’ hours rarely exceed 44 per week.
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4 Day Work Week in Germany
At 34 hours, Germany has one of the shortest average work weeks in the world, but there’s a movement to improve working hours even more. IG Metall, Germany’s largest trade union, is lobbying for Germany to adopt a 4 day work week.
Since 2020, Germany has faced economic difficulties from both the pandemic and the struggle to transition to electric vehicles (the car industry employs much of Germany’s blue collar workforce). Many people in Germany believe reducing employees’ hours would help avoid job cuts in the face of economic difficulties.
Working Hours in Germany
Legal working days in Germany are from Monday to Saturday, but for most workers, a standard work week is from 8 or 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Employees are allowed to work up to 10 hours per day, as long as the total weekly work time is not longer than 48 hours. Typically, work time should not exceed 8 hours per day.
Unlike many countries, Germany does not have laws that mandate overtime pay, but agreements often exist between the employee and employer.
In most cases, it is illegal for employers to force employees to work on Sundays or public holidays in Germany. If a worker is required to work in either of these circumstances, the employer is legally obligated to provide a substitute day off within a certain timeframe.
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4 Day Work Week in Iceland
Iceland is one of the countries most in support of the 4 day work week. Between 2015 and 2019, Iceland led one of the largest 4 day work week pilots. The trial involved about 2,500 participants with no reduction in pay.
The trial was considered a huge success and has resulted in a huge shift in Iceland’s standard working hours, with 90% of the population currently enjoying reduced hours or other work modifications.
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4 Day Work Week in Ireland
Although Ireland hasn’t officially adopted a 4 day work week, many companies in the country participated in a 6 month, 4 day work week pilot program between June and December of 2022. The pilot was sponsored by 4 Day Week Global, a group campaigning to bring the 4 day work week to countries across the world.
17 Irish companies participated in the trial program, which was monitored by researchers from Boston University and University College Dublin. The goal of the program was to determine whether the 4 day work week can increase employee wellness and productivity while reducing carbon emissions.
Here are the results from the pilot:
Business Performance and Productivity
- The trial companies saw an ~8% increase in revenue.
- Compared to the same timeframe last year, revenue increased by 37.55%.
- There was a positive trend in the hiring rate, and a slight reduction in absenteeism and resignations.
Balance Between Work and Personal Life
- Employees could dedicate more time to personal interests and voluntary activities.
- There was a drop in the need for additional time for most tasks and activities.
- Extra free time was primarily distributed amongst recreational activities, domestic duties/care work, and self-care.
Physical and Mental Health
- A decline in stress levels and burnout was reported by employees after the trial.
- Improvement in physical and mental health was self-reported.
- An increase in physical exercise and a decrease in fatigue were noted.
Environmental Impact and Commuting
- There was a drop in the percentage of employees commuting via car from 56.5% before the trial to 52.5% afterwards.
- The weekly commute duration saw a reduction of nearly an hour.
- Small but significant increases were observed in home recycling activities, choosing to walk or cycle instead of driving, and buying environmentally-friendly products.
Value of Current Job
- At the conclusion of the trial, 70% of respondents claimed they would need a salary increment of 10-50% to switch back to a five-day work routine.
- 13% mentioned they would need a salary increment of more than 50%.
- Another 13% of respondents claimed they wouldn't revert to a five-day schedule irrespective of the pay rise.
Household Labor and Gender Equality
- The trial did not significantly impact the division of labor at home.
- A slight increase in men's contribution to childcare was observed.
- Further studies are needed to understand changes in societal norms over time.
Cost of Childcare
- The trial observed a decrease in expenses related to childcare.
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4 Day Work Week in Japan
Although in the past Japan has been known for an intense working culture, recently the country has released new guidelines encouraging employers to move to 4 day work weeks.The idea of a 4 day work week has been proposed in the past and implemented by some companies, such as Microsoft Japan. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and a labor shortage in the country moved the government to promote it as a nation-wide guideline.
The goal of the 4 day work week guideline is to support employee wellness, family time and social life, and help with the country’s labor shortage.
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4 Day Work Week in the Netherlands
Although the Netherlands doesn't officially work a 4 day week, it's the a norm for many people, especially working moms.
According to government statistics, 86% of employed moms worked less than 35 hours per week. 12% of working fathers also worked low hours compared to other countries.
Working Hours in the Netherlands
At only 29 hours long, the Netherlands has one of the shortest average work weeks in the world. This is partly due to legislation offering workers the right to choose part time hours.
Standard working hours in the Netherlands are from 9 AM to 5 or 6 PM, Monday through Friday. By law, employers cannot require employees to work more than 12 hours on a given day, with a 60 hour weekly maximum. Employees in the Netherlands cannot be required to work on Sundays.
Over the course of four weeks, an employee’s average weekly hours should be lower than 55, unless a mutual agreement between the employee and employer is reached to work more. However, the hours cannot exceed 60.
The Netherlands does not have laws that regulate overtime pay, so the rate depends on the contact between an employee and employer. Employees are only paid for overtime work that has been requested by the employer.
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4-Day Work Week in New Zealand
Like all the other countries, different organizations have made tangible efforts to introduce 4 day work week in New Zealand. Still, it is in its early stages, and trials are being conducted to analyze the impact of the reduced working hours on different aspects.
Following the successful trial run at New Zealand-based company Perpetual Guardian in 2018, 4 Day Week Global came into existence.
New Zealand's four days work week trial results about employee well-being and business growth will overwhelm you:
- On a scale of 1-10, the trial was rated 8.2 by all the stakeholders, highlighting its success.
- The companies met 100% of their business targets while undergoing the four-day week experiment.
- The set revenue goals were met within time.
- There were no additional costs in terms of higher pay or other benefits given to employees.
- The employees worked 20% less than their traditional five-day week but achieved better results through a four-day working week.
- The extra time received as a result of the shorter working week was available as the leisure time that could be spent by the workers as needed.
- 38% of the employees felt less stressed
- The burnout stat decreased by 2/3rd during the term of the four-day week trial.
- People exercised more and slept more in addition to having a better sense of time.
- The workers could spend more time on passion projects.
- The overall work-life conflict was reduced significantly.
- Organizations witnessed a 44% decline in absenteeism, while resignations dropped by 9% in the four-day week trial.
Employees' Take on 4-Day Work Week
After this trial, most of the employees loved the concept of a four-day workweek.
- 1 in 10 employees said that they wouldn't want to go back to the traditional five-day week, irrespective of the amount of money offered.
- 1 in 3 employees demanded 26 - 50% more money to join the workspace with a 5-day week routine once shifted to a four-day working week business.
Gender Equality & Environmental Impact
With a four-day workweek, men found themselves spending more time at home, lending a hand to their families and contributing to a more balanced division of responsibilities. This positive shift contributed to an overall sense of gender equality.
This change enabled male employees to participate in family life and allowed them to step up in caregiving roles, giving their partners a chance to enjoy some well-deserved freedom.
Also, favorable environmental outcomes were noted, indicating a decrease of 36 minutes in weekly commuting time per person.
So, overall, the trial showed that a four-day workweek could boost productivity, improve employee morale and well-being, and reduce stress and burnout.
However, for a clearer picture of its impact on employee success, more trials and experiments are needed to gather solid evidence.
Unilever New Zealand Trial
Another study was conducted by Unilever New Zealand. The aim of this experiment was to analyze the impact of a four-day workweek on employee performance, productivity, and business revenue targets.
This initial New Zealand trial was an 18-month pilot project in which 80 employees participated. Within this experiment, the workers had the right to keep 100% of the salaries while working for only 80% of the time. However, the business targets were to be fully achieved.
- The results of this trial were a success. Here are a few findings:
- The employees felt more engaged to work during their four-day work weeks.
- The vast majority of staff felt engaged, and absenteeism dropped by 34%.
- The stress level decreased by 33% after an extra day off.
- The stats indicated that the work-life conflict fell by 67%.
- The individual well-being of the employees improved by 33%.
- Employees showed more strength at work. It was up by 15%.
- Even the stakeholders admitted that the business goals were fully met.
All of these stats show that the four-day workweek could bring more benefits for the employees and the organizations.
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4 Day Work Week in Norway
Although Norway hasn’t officially adopted the 4 day work week, at 34 hours, Norway’s work week is shorter than many other countries.
To date, Norway hasn’t taken part in any official 4 day work week pilots; however there are several companies across the country that have chosen to adopt the 4 day work week on their own.
Working Hours in Norway
Standard working hours in Norway are usually between 8 or9 AM to 4 or 5 PM, including a lunch break, which is not paid. Workers must have at least 11 hours off between shifts. Any time worked beyond 9 hours in one day, or 40 hours a week, is considered overtime and must be compensated.
Although some countries offer the option for workers to opt out of the maximum working hours rule, Norway does not. Norway’s overtime regulations are strict, and employees must work less than 200 hours per year. By law, overtime work must be compensated by at least 140% of the employee’s normal rate.
According to the law, the maximum working hours per day is 9 hours, and the maximum working hours per week is 40 hours. Overtime is defined as any work that exceeds these limits.
Additionally, workers in Norway are not permitted to work nights (anytime after 9 PM and before 6 AM) or on Sundays unless it’s a necessity in their line of work.
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4 Day Work Week in Portugal
The workers in Portugal typically follow a five-day work week, as is the case in most parts of the world. However, the recent success of the experiments to explore the impact of a 4-day work week has paved the way for a better work-life balance.
The pilot program in Portugal emphasizes that a four-day workweek can lead to various benefits, such as improved well-being and mental health of the employees.
Also, it will ensure that the business objectives are met with a higher efficiency as compared to the standard workweek.
4-day Work Week - Collaboration of Global & Portuguese Government
The pilot study has been initiated by the collaboration of the government and the international organization Global, a propagator of the four-day workweek.
The program is part of the Global movement working to introduce shorter workweek in different parts of the world.
The four-day week uses 100-80-100™ model, where the employees don't have to undergo any reduction in pay, but they are required to work a lesser number of days.
Within this study, 39 private-sector organizations are participating from different sectors. Most of the participants are from technology and professional businesses. Also, a nursery, a care home, a stem cell bank, and a scientific research firm are included in the four-day workweek trial.
Participation in this experiment aims to reduce burnout and stress in the employees and improve the retention ratio.
The Four Day Workweeks program started in June. The pilot program will be continued for the next six months and will end in December. Only then the tangible deductions from this shorter workweek study can only be stated.
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4 Day Work Week in Scotland
In September 2023, the Scottish Government announced plans to test a four-day workweek for specific public sector employees.
This initiative will test a shorter working week at 100% salary and will pilot the scheme for a year. After the 12 months, results of the experiment will be analysed before any potential broader implementation.
Advisers hope that if the public sector's four-day workweek proves successful, it might encourage the private sector to adopt it for enhanced productivity and better work-life balance.
Earlier in 2021, the Scottish government revealed plans to donate 10 million pounds towards helping companies take part in a 4 day work week pilot program.
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4 Day Work Week in South Africa
Although South Africa doesn’t officially have a 4 day work week, many South African companies have recently started piloting a shorter work week. They join the 100’s of companies who have already started trialing a 4 day work week (i.e. a 32hr week for 100% salary) as part of the 4 Day Week Global campaign.
These pilots will run for 6 months, started in February 2023.
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4 Day Work Week in Spain
Workers in Spain typically work a 5 day work week. In 2021, however, the Spanish government agreed to invest 50 million euros (the equivalent of $60 million) into a three-year, 4 day work week trial program.
Approximately 200 companies and 3,000-6,000 employees are expected to participate. Employees will work 32 hours a week without pay reduction. The country’s government will cover 100% of the companies’ costs the first year, 50% the second year, and 33% during the final year of the trial.
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4 Day Work Week in Switzerland
To date, Switzerland has not adopted the 4 day work week nor taken part in a 4 day work week pilot program, although some Swiss unions are campaigning for the change. In Switzerland, there is still some skepticism surrounding the idea of the 4 day work week, especially for large businesses.
Although the 4 day work week has not been sponsored nationally, there are some small businesses in Sweden who are experimenting with the 4 day work week on their own.
Working Hours in Switzerland
According to an OECD survey, workers in Switzerland enjoy the 4th shortest work week in the world, coming in at 34.6 hours. However, the average hours worked in Switzerland vary based on industry and employer. Working time should not exceed 45 hours per week, according to Swiss law.
Employees who work in the medical or hospitality fields generally work longer hours than workers with jobs in other industries.
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4 Day Work Week in the UK
Historically, the UK has had a traditional, 5 day work week. However, in 2022, the UK began a large 4 day work week pilot program. The program includes 70 UK businesses, over 3,300 employees, and covers over 30 fields of work.
The trial ran from June 2022 until December of 2022 and is the largest 4 day work week pilot program to date. Similar pilots are taking place in Ireland, the United States, Israel, and several other countries over the same period.
The trial is being conducted by the 4 Day Week Global organization, in conjunction with several other companies and researchers from Oxford, Cambridge, and Boston University.
Here are the results from this pilot study:
- 92% of companies continued with the 4-day week post-trial.
- Average revenue increased by 1.4% across participant companies.
- The trial was rated 8.3/10 by companies.
- Business performance and productivity both scored an average of 7.5/10.
- Staff attrition decreased by 57% over the trial period.
- 90% of employees expressed a definite desire to continue with the 4-day week.
- 55% of employees reported an improvement in their work abilities.
- 15% stated they wouldn't accept a five-day schedule in their next role, regardless of the salary.
Health and Well-being
- 71% of employees experienced a reduction in burnout.
- Stress levels fell for 39% of participants.
- 43% of employees noted an improvement in mental health.
- 54% reported a decrease in negative emotions.
- Physical health improved for 37% of employees.
- 46% experienced reduced fatigue.
- Sleep problems decreased for 40% of participants.
Family and Household Life
- 73% of employees reported higher satisfaction with their time.
- 60% found it easier to balance paid work with caregiving responsibilities.
- Work-life balance improved, with 62% finding it easier to combine work with social life.
- Men's involvement in childcare increased by more than double that of women (27% vs. 13%).
- The overall experience of the trials was rated an 8.5 out of 10.
- Business productivity and performance each scored a 7.5 out of 10.
Life and Job Satisfaction
- Both men and women showed improved outcomes on a 4-day week, with women’s improvements generally being greater.
Climate and Lifestyle
- Commuting time fell by 30 minutes per week across the sample.
- The extra day off was primarily used for hobbies, leisure, housework, caregiving, and personal upkeep, not for additional paid work.
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4 Day Work Week in the U.S.
Traditionally, the U.S. has had a 5 day work week. While the 4 day work week has not been adopted in the U.S. to date, the country is taking steps to determine if it’s a feasible option.
The organization 4 Day Week Global undertook a 4 day work week pilot program across the U.S. and Canada. The pilot involved nearly 2,000 employees and 35 companies across North America.
Here are the results of the pilot:
Productivity and Revenue
- An 8% rise in revenue was observed during the trial.
- Revenue was up 37.55% compared to the same period in the previous year.
- The rate of hiring increased while absenteeism and resignations slightly declined.
- Employees were able to spend more time on hobbies and volunteering.
- There was a decrease in the desire for more time spent on most activities.
- The extra time off was primarily allocated to leisure, housework/care work, and personal maintenance
- Employees reported decreased stress and burnout post-trial.
- Self-rated physical and mental health improved after the trial.
- Employees spent more time exercising and reported less fatigue.
Commute and Environmental Impact
- A reduction in the percentage of employees commuting by car was seen, from 56.5% pre-trial to 52.5% post-trial.
- Time spent on commuting fell by nearly an hour a week.
- There was a slight increase in household recycling, walking and cycling, and purchasing of eco-friendly products.
- 70% of employees reported that they would require a 10-50% pay rise to return to a five-day schedule.
- 13% said they would require more than a 50% pay rise.
- Another 13% stated that no amount of money could convince them to give up the four-day work week.
Gender Equality in Household Labor
- There was no significant change in the household division of labor.
- Men marginally increased their contribution to childcare.
- Future research is required to study changes in societal norms.
- A reduction in childcare costs was observed over the course of the trial.
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4 Day Working Week in the United Arab Emirates
While the United Arab Emirates has not yet moved to a 4 day work week, the government announced at the end of 2021 that government agencies and schools will be moving to a 4.5 day work week.
With this shift, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become the first country in the world to officially move to a work week that is less than the traditional 5 days. The province of Sharjah has gone one further, and has adopted 4 day week model.