One company has had a 4-day week for 7 years. Will 50 more follow suit?

It's not easy doing five days' worth of work in four days, sure—but what if it means fewer sick days and higher productivity?

Corporate Germany has a woman problem (photo: National Herald archives)
Corporate Germany has a woman problem (photo: National Herald archives)
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DW

A four-day workweek for the same pay?

Advocates suggest a four-day workweek would increase productivity, which would in turn help to alleviate skilled labour shortage.

Consultancy firm Intraprenor is leading a pilot project. About 50 German companies signed up for a six-month trial.

Carsten Meier, managing director, Intraprenor, said: "The main reasons are, of course, very often the shortage of skilled workers out there. So, simply finding a way to keep my existing employees happy and satisfied. But on the other hand, how can I ensure there's less of a workload, and reduce sick days? And how can I actually fill the vacancies I have better and faster?"

The company introduced a four-day workweek for their employees seven years ago.

Nathalie Starke, who is a consultant at Intraprenor, said: "I think there's a cultural change taking place in many age groups, or at least in my own circle, and here in Berlin, that we value work but no longer value overworking."

Steffen Mende works for a window manufacturer taking part in the pilot. He is looking forward to having more family time, but also has some concerns about his workload.

Mende, who works as a window fitter at EuroLam, said: "I don't think it's going to be easy. What you do now in five days has to get done in four days. And I think you have to reschedule a lot and organise things differently so that everything runs smoothly."

Henning Roper, managing director at EuroLam, hopes that by streamlining operations, his staff will be able to manage.

"It's all about optimising processes, reducing inefficiency, for example, any idle time. In other words, the workflow must be better coordinated and continually improved. Of course, if at any point during this test phase it becomes clear that we are no longer competitive, then the test has failed and we will go back to the five-day model," said Roper.

Studies from other countries, such as the United Kingdom, have confirmed the positive effects of a four-day workweek. The number of sick days fell by up to 20 per cent, and in some cases, productivity increased.

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