I’m not sure what part is better about a long weekend: The extra day of relaxation or the feeling of going into a workweek that’s only four days long. Several countries have done pilot projects on implementing a 4-day workweek permanently, however, Spain is soon to be launching the biggest pilot of its kind.
Spain Experiments With The 4-Day Workweek
Back in March, the Spanish government announced its intent to experiment with a 4-day workweek beginning this fall. The week, defined by working 32 hours instead of the standard 40, has a goal of improving the productivity and the work-life balance of Spanish citizens. (1)
“Spain is one of the countries where workers put in more hours than the European average. But we’re not among the most productive countries,” said Iñigo Errejón of the small Spanish leftwing party Más País. “I maintain that working more hours does not mean working better.”
The proposed pilot is a three-year, €50m project that supports companies to trial the 4-day workweek with minimal risk to themselves and their employees. The costs of trialing this project will be covered 100% the first year, 50% the second, and 33% the third year. They estimate that they can have about 200 companies participate for a total of 3,000 to 6,000 workers. They simply want to see a reduction in hours with no loss of salary or jobs. (2)
“Spain will be the first country to undertake a trial of this magnitude,” said Héctor Tejero of Más País. “A pilot project like this hasn’t been undertaken anywhere in the world.”
As already mentioned, the goal is to reduce the working hours of Spanish workers, improve their mental health, and improve their productivity. They are hoping to replicate the results of a small experiment done by southern Spain software company Delsol last year. This firm implemented a 4-day workweek and saw:
- Reduction in absenteeism
- Increased productivity
- Happier workers
4-day Workweek: An Echo Heard Around The World
While there is naturally some opposition from opposing parties, generally everyone is on board – including other countries. European countries, the UK, and elsewhere are watching closely to see how this national-level pilot turns out. If it goes well, it is likely that other countries will follow suit.
“My understanding is that this would be the first-ever national level pilot of the four-day week,” said Joe Ryle of the 4 Day Week Campaign. “We’re calling on governments across the world to follow the Spanish example in paving the way for the four-day work week.”
The opposition, however, has called this project “madness” in light of the current, pandemic-driven economic crisis in the country. Many of Spain’s business leaders have suggested that getting out of this hole requires more work, not less. Others, however, argue that given how burnt-out and mentally defeated many of the country’s workers are after a year and a half of lockdowns and restrictions, working more simply isn’t an option. The mental health of the nation’s workers can’t take it.
“Clearly the way that we work is making people stressed, burned out, overworked and causing massive workplace and mental health issues,” said Ryle. “The four-day week would be good for the economy, good for workers and good for the environment. What’s not to like about it?”