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As the coronavirus pandemic changes the way societies around the world view work, Spain has announced it will begin a limited trial of a four-day workweek in a bid to boost productivity, mental health, and the environment.
“The benefits of a four-day workweek include reduced unemployment, increased productivity, and greater employee well-being.”
The Guardian reports that Iñigo Errejón of Más País—the small left-wing party whose proposal for the trial workweek reduction was accepted by the government last month—called the experiment “an idea whose time has come” and “the real debate of our times.”
Errejón noted that “Spain is one of the countries where workers put in more hours than the European average,” but is not “among the most productive” nations.
The exact details of the pilot program—which could be implemented as soon as this autumn—haven’t been finalized yet. However, Más País has proposed a three-year, €50 million ($59.6 million) trial run that would mitigate risks to employers by having the government cover all implementation costs for the first year, half the costs in year two, an one-third in year three. Employees would work 32 hours per week, with no reduction in pay.
“With these figures, we calculate that we could have around 200 companies participate, with a total of anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 workers,” Héctor Tejero of Más País told The Guardian. “The only red lines are that we want to see a true reduction of working hours and no loss of salary or jobs.”
“Spain will be the first country to undertake a trial of this magnitude,” said Tejero.
Indeed, while other countries—most notably Finland and New Zealand—have explored a workweek reduction, and while France adopted a 35-hour workweek in 2000, Tejero noted that “a pilot project like this hasn’t been undertaken anywhere in the world.”
Individual employers, including Greenpeace Canada, have also experimented with a four-day workweek, with full pay, during the pandemic.
“It’s the best,” wrote Greenpeace Canada executive director Christy Ferguson of the new policy. “Our work is stronger than ever. Our staff feel more valued. They’re healthier and more energized and more creative at work. They don’t feel so much like succeeding at work and being happy and successful at home are in constant, unresolvable tension.”
“The flexibility it affords has allowed more parents to keep working through the pandemic,” added Ferguson. “And as an organization, it feels like we’re doing a better job of living our values by working to create a different world and a different culture than the one that’s been handed down to us.”
In Spain, the Jaén-based tech company Software Delsol last year moved to a four-day workweek. Company CEO Fulgencio Meseguer last year told El País that implementing the policy “has not been easy,” largely because there has been “no reference point and no legislation.”
However, Software Delsol communications director Juan Antonio Mallenco said that “the atmosphere is great and that is also reflected in the company’s results.”
“A satisfied employee means a satisfied customer,” said Mallenco.