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Inicio  /  Blog  /  Four-day work week: utopia or near future?

Four-day work week: utopia or near future?

by Laura Di Carlo | Advice Associate Consultant

Reading time: 4'

Just as we were wary of the possibility of working remotely and integrating it into a daily and non-exceptional practice, today we are faced with a scenario with a certain analogy regarding the question generated by the possibility and feasibility of shortening the workweek and, therefore, the workload in the workplace.

Neurosciences have taken a relevant place in the field of work. The study of the brain articulated with its functions, and how these affect the human being or worker, are today material for continuous, interdisciplinary and constantly updated study. Taking the above as a starting point, several studies have shown that it is practically unfeasible to maintain our attention and concentration active and focused on a task for eight hours. However, we are part of cultures rooted in eight hours of daily work.

In an anchoring that could be somewhat anachronistic today, we still consider that more hours means more productivity and we fail to perceive the cost-benefit ratio of "less is more". Several countries are conducting pilot tests related to reducing the workweek from five days to four. Iceland, Spain, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, among others, are successfully implementing this modality.

One of the benefits that emerged from the survey of the workers themselves is that they said they felt less stressed. The level of absenteeism and turnover decreased, and they indicated that their work-life balance had improved. Also, from the point of view of organizations, incorporating these changes makes them a factor in attracting talent, since employees today seek to join companies whose working conditions are in balance with their personal lives.

VARIOS ESTUDIOS HAN DEMOSTRADO QUE ES PRÁCTICAMENTE INVIABLE MANTENER NUESTRA ATENCIÓN Y CONCENTRACIÓN ACTIVA Y FOCALIZADA EN UNA TAREA DURANTE OCHO HORAS.

The concept of "wellness at work" that we are trying to integrate into the practice of Human Resources management gains strength when it is linked to the reduction of working hours. In any case (as experience has shown) this type of measure may be more complex to implement in some sectors than in others. It should not be overlooked how the measure impacts on the labor and contractual relations of each organization, whether public or private. So far, the countries that have implemented it have not reduced workers' salaries, an aspect that has added to the motivation of the workforces involved.

The pandemic put the global labor market in check. Remote work became a constant and most organizations adapted (almost without prior preparation) to the remote work model. Resistance, doubts, massive trainings related to "how to manage remote teams" unfolded a dynamic that, in record time, became a habit. And the world kept on turning.

However, at the same time, there were layoffs, restructurings, and unemployment insurance payments that increased the workload of those workers who remained in the companies fulfilling their roles and tasks, in addition to the "vacancies" that the pandemic crisis was leaving along the way.

THE COUNTRIES THAT HAVE IMPLEMENTED IT DID NOT REDUCE WORKERS' SALARIES, AN ASPECT THAT ADDED TO THE MOTIVATION OF THE WORKFORCES INVOLVED.

Today we have an exhausted workforce, suffering from what is called "pandemic fatigue" and, in this context, it is even more difficult to demand that an employee performs his or her eight hours of work daily with the same energy as two years ago. The foregoing is related to some aspects that arise from the conceptual analysis inherent to the trilogy "work-performance-work and personal health":

  • The reduction of the workweek provides workers with more hours of rest.
  • It allows people to balance their work and personal lives according to their specific needs.
  • Generates a sense of belonging to the organization: employees feel that the company cares about their well-being.
  • Increases productivity.
  • It has a positive impact on the cognitive load of workers, regulating their attention and focus on their tasks.

Despite its benefits, the reduction of the workweek or the workday in hours should be embedded in a change management process that allows the measure to be implemented in a planned and contextualized manner, even within a "pilot project" framework. Otherwise, for example, it could have the opposite effect: it could increase stress levels as workers try to complete the eight-hour job in six hours. In any case, what organizations want is to obtain results, therefore, if necessary, it is essential to analyze each particular context and labor sector under the premise that the standardization of models or procedures is unfeasible in a world of work in which the dynamics of change are extremely vertiginous.

The future is today, the trend already exists and with promising results. Maybe it is time to start thinking and analyzing how utopian this model can be (or not).
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