News Analysis

Four-day workweek hailed a success

by Dan Byrne on Dec 1, 2022

The four-day workweek has found itself another successful trial to boast about, this time in Ireland. 

The concept has raised eyebrows worldwide. To some, it’s a move that would enhance employees’ work-life balance. To others, especially managers, it’s a day’s labour lost. 

Despite the negativity, the six-month trial in Ireland has been met with ‘universal’ praise – signalling that it may continue to dominate discussions in yet another European country.

The trial details

Twelve companies took part in the four-day workweek trial, and every employee in every business wants the practice to continue.

What’s more, leadership within all twelve companies are happy to do so. Three will maintain the practice in the short term at least; the rest will do so indefinitely. 

All companies saw a reduction in energy use. Of the seven who recorded revenue, six saw an increase. Of the four who recorded other productivity metrics, all saw an improvement. 

Meanwhile, the employees saw an improvement in their own well-being metrics. They recorded more sleep time, less stress, burnout or fatigue, and better life satisfaction – particularly the female participants.

What have the organisers got to say?

Kevin Donoghue is the chair of Four–Day Week Ireland, who supported the trial in conjunction with University College Dublin, Boston College, and the Irish trade union Forsa. 

In a statement, he said the trial results were evident “across all stakeholder groups.”

“We are glad to be able to share the success of this trial through the launch of the report this morning and look forward to working towards making the four-day week the norm in Irish society.”

Let’s put this in context

Europe is the headquarters of the four-day workweek movement. It boasts a strong culture of responding to employee-welfare needs, and several countries are global leaders in work-life balance rankings

Ireland is the latest country to hop on the four-day workweek wagon. Other countries have conducted trials in the last 3-5 years, and most have seen similar results. 

Iceland and Belgium are the most positive. The former has seen a reduction in working hours, and the latter has given employees the right to request a four-day week if they want it. 

Sweden, on the other end of the scale, has seen mixed results, primarily because of adverse reactions to the cost of the trials. 

Remember, in most of these trials and transitions, the hours worked stay the same or slightly reduce, so from Monday to Thursday, the average worker’s day is usually 2+ hours longer.

Should my company consider the four-day workweek?

There are two questions packed into that:

Should we raise the idea at the board/leadership level?

There is little in the way of an opposing argument here. At this point, the idea is merely one for discussion, so there is no harm in talking about it. 

Based on the positive results from European trials, a four-day workweek can bring increased productivity with decreased employee stress. This is a perfect combination. It’s a badge of achievement in the ‘S’ and ‘G’ categories of ESG, and it’s a sign that boards and executives are taking heed of the trends around them. 

Remember, “trial” does not mean “permanent”.

Should we actually put a four-day workweek in place?

This is where you have to get technical. 

While the concept might be attractive, you might have an incompatible business mode. Perhaps Fridays are crucial for revenue. Employees want shorter shifts over more days. 

If you’re unsure, consult your colleagues, company strategy, and employees, do a competitor analysis and keep an eye on broader market trends. The four-day week is still an infant concept – mainly at the trial stage. Let’s see how it develops.

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