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Four-Day Workweek: Pros and Cons

Friday December 10th, 2021, 12:18 PM

The idea of the four-day workweek - which has been in place for several years in some European companies - seems to be once again up for discussion in Quebec.

The idea is to reduce the work week from 40 hours to 32 hours, without changing the working conditions or reducing the salary. Like any lifestyle change, this proposal raises some controversy.

The five-day work week, often attributed to Henry Ford who closed his factories two days a week, has now become customary almost everywhere around the world. However, this does not necessarily mean that it is still an all-around adequate way of working.

Between 2015 and 2019, the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (ALDA) in Iceland asked 2,500 Icelanders to switch from a 40-hour week spread over five days to a 35-hour week spread over four days. The response was overwhelmingly positive: 86% of participants said they would opt for a shorter week if given the option.

More and more Quebec companies are adopting this work mode, which is known to reduce employee stress, increase their energy and motivation, and helps with the work-family balance. The video game studio Eidos, based in Montreal and Sherbrooke, recently announced that all of their employees would be switching to a four-day work week. The same is true for the company Poches & Fils, which has seen its productivity increase since the transition.

However, switching to a four-day workweek is not an easy task. Decreasing the number of workdays and increasing the weekend to three days means a big restructuring of the office day. Some of the workers in the Icelandic study, for example, said that they lacked the time to complete their tasks. Some solutions were to have shorter meetings or to prioritize tasks in order to remove those that are superfluous and keep what is essential to the smooth running of the company.

To sum up, a four-day week presents undeniable advantages, even if it cannot be implemented without significant adjustments to the way businesses function. It is in such contexts that working in a coworking space can be extremely advantageous for executives and employees alike. Without the worry of having to manage and finance private office spaces, collaborative workspaces allow employees to swap workdays and companies to adapt the space rental to the needs of the moment. When it comes to workplace wellness, it also benefits employees by allowing them to reduce their commute time and take advantage of all the networking potential, in spite of the shortened work week.

In conclusion, while it may not be suitable for everyone, the four-day work week is worth considering.

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