Will the four-day work week become widespread in Europe?
The idea is generating a real craze in many European countries. France, Belgium, Spain, Germany... everyone is debating the issue and experiments are multiplying.
A new work rhythm that would ensure both the performance of the company and the well-being of its employees. In order to better understand this trend, we offer you a brief overview across Europe and beyond of the reflections and developments linked to this practice.
A topic that is increasingly being discussed
Following the Covid crisis, questions related to time management in companies, new organisations and work rhythms have obviously gained importance. Among these issues, which were strongly revived by the pandemic, the 4-day working week was much talked about.
Its principle: the same salary, the same benefits and the same workload, but over four days instead of five. A practice that is giving rise to a real debate, as many trade unions across Europe are asking governments to consider integrating this four-day week. The reason is that it would be a source of satisfaction, work/life balance and performance for employees.
The French example of LDLC
Yes, but in concrete terms, what can be the results of such a work rhythm? Let's take the example of the French group LDLC, which specialises in the sale of computer equipment. This organisation has been under close scrutiny since it introduced the four-day week in 2021. This choice was born of the desire of its director Laurent de la Clergerie to offer his 1,000 employees the opportunity to work four days instead of five (reduced to 32 hours a week compared to the legal 35 hours in France), while receiving the same salary.
"A success" with positive growth
With hindsight, its application is a "success" according to its manager. Firstly, in human terms: "We have regained the time to live, to balance our lives and at the same time to enjoy them". And in terms of the company's performance: "A 6% growth, a 20% gain in profits and a negative balance between hiring and leaving", says Laurent de la Clergerie. This is proof of its efficiency and has aroused keen interest from other entities interested in this way of working.
It must be said that the pandemic has reshuffled the cards with changes in work organisations marked by a need for a better balance between personal and professional life, and a stronger sense of meaning given to work. It was therefore favourable to the acceleration of the four-day week.
Belgium and France are ahead of the game
Although in France it is enshrined in the Robien law of 1996, but still only weakly applied, experiments have been going on all over the place for the past two years and the forward march seems to be taking hold. This situation has also been observed in several European countries.
In Belgium, for example. The introduction of the four-day week took shape last May with an agreement by the country's federal coalition giving employees the right to reduce their working day from five to four days, without loss of pay, but with the same number of hours to be worked. The idea is to "give people and companies more freedom to organise their working time", said Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo. And to make the labour market more flexible.
What about the rest of Europe?
Elsewhere, a six-month study has begun in the UK under the watchful eye of researchers. Volunteer companies are allowing their employees to work up to ten hours a day over a shorter week. The aim is to study the impact of this reduction in the number of days worked on productivity, the environment and the well-being of employees. In the same vein, another three-year experiment will take place in Spain with 6,000 employees of several SMEs.
And in the world?
As for the rest of the world, there is a definite interest in this working rhythm. Countries such as Japan and Iceland have already successfully adopted it. And companies in New Zealand and Canada are conducting individual initiatives. So is the four-day week the future of work?
It is difficult to establish this at the moment, but in any case, given the examples that apply it, it could be an innovative and complementary way of reconciling company performance and employee balance.