Forty-five German employers are set to embark on a groundbreaking experiment in February, trialling a four-day work week to gauge its effects on both productivity and employee well-being.
This initiative is part of a sweeping pilot program spearheaded by 4 Day Week Global, headquartered in New Zealand, which has overseen similar trials in countries like the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Scheduled to run for six months, the trial aims to validate predictions made by Germany’s labour unions, suggesting that a shorter work week could lead to healthier, happier, and more productive staff, as reported by Bloomberg. This move comes amidst concerns over a significant skills shortage in the European nation, a situation expected to worsen with an estimated departure of over seven million workers from the labour force by 2035.
Even though Germany already boasts one of the shortest average work weeks globally, clocking in at 34 hours, employees are advocating for even shorter work weeks along with pay raises exceeding 20%, leveraging their advantageous position in negotiations, according to the report.
Employees are advocating for even shorter work weeks along with pay raises exceeding 20%
The standard work week in Germany typically spans Monday to Friday, with working hours typically starting between 8 am or 9 am and ending at 5 pm. Employees are permitted to work up to 10 hours per day, provided the total weekly work time does not exceed 48 hours, with an ideal daily limit of eight hours, according to information from 4 Day Week Global’s website.
The launch of this six-month pilot project in Germany adds the nation to the growing roster of countries experimenting with the four-day work week concept.
Previous participants in similar trials worldwide have reported positive outcomes. In the United Kingdom, for instance, nine out of ten employers expressed interest in continuing the four-day work week after a successful trial in 2022. Participants noted reduced burnout levels, decreased fatigue, and enhanced mental well-being.
Similarly, Iceland’s four-day work week trial, conducted between 2015 and 2019 by the Reykjavik City Council and the Icelandic government, was hailed as a resounding success.
Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, remarked, “It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks – and lessons can be learned from other governments,” in a statement to ABC News.