Is the standard workweek changing?

Jul 28, 2023

Is the standard workweek changing... Blog @ TeamUltim

Photo by Loic Leray on Unsplash

The modern workplace is constantly evolving, and work-life balance is becoming more difficult to maintain. Workplaces are always in search of new innovative ways to increase business productivity while also considering other crucial factors such as: their employees’ mental health, a positive corporate culture and how to achieve a better work-life balance.

Over the past several years different work trends have been tried and tested and the recent Covid-19 pandemic has even triggered a rise in modern workforce trends which may seem out of the norm. However, the evolution of the modern workweek is no longer something that should be ignored. The pandemic has driven people to push for a better work-life balance, now, more than ever. Debates revolving around a possible 4-day work week as opposed to the standard 40-hour weekly schedule have increased. This potential 4-day work week has been tried and tested over the years. This article will cover some of the immensely debated topics surrounding the current modern work week. How effective would new work trends be if adopted by companies? And what can be said about their longevity and feasibility?

A reduced workweek

When it comes to working hours, the conversation has greatly shifted to the idea of a reduced workweek, the 4-day workweek being the most popular.

“The goal is to give people and companies more freedom to arrange their work time.” — Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium.

More countries have been adopting a shorter workweek. Conversations shedding light on the idea of a possible 4-day workweek are becoming more common. Lately, Portugal has started a trial run of said 4-day workweek. However, they aren’t the only country to do so. Countries such as Belgium and the U.K, have been testing out this idea of a reduced work week for some time now. As of February 2022, Belgium became the first European country to legislate for a 4-day workweek.

Why a 4-day workweek?

The point of a 4-day workweek is to give employees more free time to themselves without a change, specifically a reduction in their salary. The working hours remain the same, however the days are reduced. A 4-day workweek could help achieve and maintain a healthier work-life balance.

How effective would a 4-day work week be?

So far, the U.K has held the largest trial run of the 4-day work week. This trial took place between June and December of 2022 and involved workers at more than 60 U.K companies. After this trial period, more than 90% of the participating businesses have decided to continue with this reduced workweek, while 18 of them have decided to keep it in place permanently. It was reported to have been a 65% drop in the number of sick days and 71% of employees felt less likely to burnout.

The company Microsoft also implemented a 4-day work week in its Japan offices back in 2019 giving all 2,300 employees five Fridays off in a row, without deducting from their pay. They reported not only an increase in employee productivity by 40% but also that their employees were happier. Therefore, it can be concluded that the possibility of a 4-day work week should not be quickly ruled out.

The 40-hour workweek

Why is the 40-hour workweek still the standard? It can be argued that this work model is the most effective as it maintains a high amount of business productivity However, does it truly cater to workers’ needs? The Netherlands has the shortest working week worldwide as the Dutch work 29.5 hours weekly on average. However, the idea of a reduced workweek is gaining more momentum and other countries such Denmark, Finland, France and Belgium fall closely behind. Does the 40-hour workweek still satisfy the demands of today’s evolving workforce and economy as well as employee needs?

The face of the modern workforce is constantly evolving. Companies are in constant search of a new work model that will quench their thirst for a healthier work-life balance yet keep productivity at the forefront. The modern-day workforce continues to do a 180 as countries continue to test the feasibility of 4-day workweeks. Would the 40-hour workweek still be the standard in the next 20 or 30 years ? or would there be another phenomenon at the center of the workforce?

Discuss @ Medium