Four-day week could boost jobs in Spain

Adam McCulloch reports in ‘Personnel Today’ on a proposed initiative being considered in Spain – to reduce their working week in order to boost employment, health and productivity – in our view, a 4 day working week is inevitable, and soon, just as a 7 day week became 6, and then pressure grew for 5 – the pandemic has dramatically accelerated this need, with widespread WFH showing that, for most, 5 days a week in the office is unnecessary.
One cautionary note, however – more and more employees are rightly being judged on their results, not their ‘presenteeism’ record –  that means they cannot simply ‘knock off’ when the clock chimes 5pm – their brains continue ticking 24/ 7 as they kick around problems chasing solutions – they’re paid a specific total per week, regardless of the official hours input expected – it’s their ability to ‘switch off’ and give their weary grey cells time to recover that is likely to become of serious concern – the current rise in mental health problems at work suggests this has started already


Spain’s parliament building in Madrid


Spain’s deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias Turrión said a cut in working hours, without loss of pay would “undoubtedly” lead to the expansion of employment opportunities.

Spain has a complex multi-party political system based around coalitions so often leaders of smaller parties – many of which are chiefly regional – can have significant influence over policy outcomes. Among those smaller parties is Más País (More Country) whose leader, Íñigo Errejón, has also voiced support for a shorter working week.

He said: “Now that we have to rebuild our economy, Spain has the perfect opportunity to go for the four-day or 32-hour week.”

“It is a policy for the future that allows for an increase in the productivity of workers, improvements to physical and mental health.”

He added that a four-day working week could contribute to less pollution and a reduction of energy consumption with less commuting and a reduced need to light, heat and cool office buildings.

The move is being considered by the Spanish Treasury as part of negotiations ahead of budget talks. It is thought that any roll out would be limited to a small number of companies initially. Indeed, a small number of companies have already independently adopted a four-day working week, reportedly leading to an increase in productivity.

This is all in the global context that Unilever has begun trialling a four-day week in New Zealand, with employees allowed to select which four days they would prefer to work.

And a four day week was also trialled by Microsoft last year in Japan – the company found it led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and, it claimed, a 40% productivity boost.

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