In 1593, King Philip II of Spain established an eight-hour work day by a royal edict. Now, they’re pioneering a national four-day work week to make sure employees’ heads are at least as healthy as their bottom lines. Envious, anyone?
More than a century after Chicago factory workers won protections under the slogan “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what we will,” the work week is once again evolving.
Companies have recently been experimenting with four-day weeks in the hope that a shorter week will ultimately improve their bottom lines. But the concept broke new ground last month, when Spain announced it will become the world’s first country to trial a four-day working week. The three-year, €50 million ($USD60 million) pilot project will launch in September.
Under the plans, approximately 300 Spanish companies will voluntarily take part in the project by reducing their employees’ working week to 32 hours while keeping their salaries the same. The government will compensate participating businesses for any higher costs incurred by the changes.
“The four-day week has never been tested on this level,” says Héctor Tejero, political coordinator of Más País, the left-wing party that put forward the proposal. “Until now there’s only been fragmented evidence and research from different countries.”
Tejero believes the benefits of shifting away from the Monday to Friday, 9-to-5 status quo could be profound and wide-ranging: improving employee wellbeing, reducing carbon emissions, increasing gender equality and raising productivity.
“The key is flexibility,” he adds. “Some workers might prefer to have four days, or others might prefer to spread their 32 hours of work across five days. What’s important is that the idea has been put on the political agenda.”