100-80-100 – is this the model of the future? This question will soon be explored in a pilot project in Germany by the self-described “people-oriented management consultancy” Intraprenör. Employers can register to participate from Thursday. 100 percent performance 80 percent of the time with 100 percent pay. The four-day working week will be tested for six months and the change will be scientifically evaluated.
“We hope to take the debate about the four-day working week to a new level – with scientific support,” says management consultant Jan Bühren from Intraprenör.
“Instead of theory, just try it out”
The Berlin company is organizing the project in Germany together with the organization 4 Day Week Global. The non-governmental organization (NGO) has already initiated such studies in other countries, including a critically acclaimed project in Britain. “It bothers us that the whole discussion takes place in a vacuum – because everything is only discussed in theory, but not tried out,” says Bühren. That should now also change in Germany.
The same performance in less time?
The pilot explicitly assumes a four-day working week in which working hours are shortened, but the salary and desired performance remain the same. Other models, for example, state that less working time also means lower wages. In addition, some smaller companies are trying out a concept where they work a little more on four days and compensate for the extra hours of the previous days with time off on the fifth day.
However, the most discussed option is the first option, namely fewer working hours for the same pay. This is also what the German trade union IG Metall is referring to when it calls for a four-day working week in its demands for the next collective labor agreement negotiations in the iron and steel industry. The idea behind this is: if you only have to work four days a week, you will be more focused and motivated – and you can still successfully meet your demands even in less time.
More time for yourself and your family
A survey by the unionized Hans Böckler Foundation recently concluded that the four-day work week is a popular idea among employees – at least in combination with equal pay. The foundation’s research shows that more than 73 percent would like a four-day working week with a correspondingly shorter working time. About 8 percent would also like to do this with less pay. 17 percent rejected the four-day working week. When it came to reasons, ‘Because I want to have more time for myself’ was mentioned most often (96.5 percent). This was followed by ‘Because I want to have more time for my family’ (89 percent).
In particular, respondents who rejected the four-day working week often said they enjoyed working (86 percent). 82 percent were skeptical that a reduction in working hours would change anything in work processes. About 77 percent assume that they will no longer be able to do the job.
“Productivity loss looms”
Medium-sized companies, on the other hand, are more skeptical about the four-day working week. Individual solutions between employees and employers should be advocated, Christoph Ahlhaus, federal director of the German Association of Medium-sized Companies, told the dpa.
However, medium-sized companies reject state intervention that requires fewer working hours with full wage compensation, “because shorter working hours threaten to lead to productivity losses, which will suffer first the companies and then all of us.” He believes it is impossible that a significant number of members will adopt a “state-mandated four-day work week” given the shortage of skilled workers.
After the four-day project in Great Britain, most participating companies came to a very positive conclusion. 56 out of 61 employers said they wanted to keep the four-day working week. The number of sick days fell by approximately two-thirds (65 percent) during the test period and the number of employees who left the company during this period fell by more than half (57 percent).
According to the analysis, the turnover of the companies involved increased by an average of 1.4 percent during the test phase. Researchers from Boston and Cambridge carried out the analysis and also conducted in-depth interviews with those involved.
Companies can register voluntarily
However, the results are based on the evaluation of companies that volunteered to participate. No random selection took place. In Great Britain, companies from the financial sector, IT and construction, as well as from the hospitality and healthcare sectors, participated. In total, the companies involved employ approximately 2,900 people. Some companies introduced a three-day weekend across the board, while others spread employee days off throughout the week or linked them to goals.
In Germany, the project will be similar to that in Great Britain: interested companies can register to participate from Thursday. Intraprenör has set itself the goal of convincing more than 50 companies in Germany to participate. The test period starts this year.
The participating companies must then try out the four-day week for at least six months. According to Intraprenör, within this period they can call on experts, learn new methods and exchange ideas with other employers. Contacts should also be made possible with companies that have already permanently switched to the four-day working week. The University of Münster is responsible for the scientific evaluation.
I’m Ben Stock, a journalist and author at Today Times Live. I specialize in economic news and have been working in the news industry for over five years. My experience spans from local journalism to international business reporting. In my career I’ve had the opportunity to interview some of the world’s leading economists and financial experts, giving me an insight into global trends that is unique among journalists.