Four-day week. What if Friday were Saturday?


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Launched at the end of 2022, the four-day week pilot project has entered its second phase. In the first phase, 99 companies from different sectors participated. Of these, 46 will move on to the next phase.

Fewer working hours and new ways of rationalizing the working day are the challenges of the Four-Day Week pilot project, developed by the Institute for Employment and Vocational Training, which is now entering its second phase: the preparatory phase, which will last until May. The first, dedicated to reflection and clarification by the 99 national companies that volunteered for the project, ended in February, and the first results were presented yesterday by the working group led by economist Pedro Gomes and human resources expert Rita Fontinha.

Based on three fundamental assumptions (no wage cuts, reversibility of the process at any time if the company so wishes, and the provision of technical support by the State), the program moved forward “in an environment of skepticism among the social partners,” as Pedro Gomes recalls, because “in the social dialogue, neither the trade unions nor the employers’ organizations were enthusiastic about the idea. Nevertheless, 99 companies from all over the country signed up (half of them from the Lisbon and Oporto metropolitan areas), and 46 of them decided to proceed to the next stages of preparation and, finally, testing. The latter will take place between June and November and will include problem-solving sessions, process optimization, evaluation surveys and, of course, employee involvement. “We have to admit that this is a disruptive project, which always brings with it a lot of problems and confusion,” says Pedro Gomes, who is optimistic about the prospect of changing mentalities.

In terms of sectors of activity, this first phase has seen the participation of companies mainly dedicated to consulting and information technology, but also companies related to industry, commerce, construction, education, health and activities related to social support. In terms of size, the Portuguese business fabric, mostly made up of small and medium-sized companies, is well represented: half of the companies that joined the program have less than 20 employees. However, 11 large companies with more than 1000 employees also participated.

What the report also reveals are the motivations of those who signed up for the program: “When we asked the companies about their reasons for being interested in the four-day week, the vast majority of companies revealed a concern for human resources, namely trying to reduce the level of stress among employees (…)”. It should be recalled that last February, the Portuguese Association of Psychologists published the Report on the Cost of Stress and Mental Health Problems at Work in Portugal, with alarming data on the high social and individual costs of burnout among the working population.

At the presentation of the report, Miguel Fontes, Secretary of State for Labor, linked the initiative to the more general need “to put people at the center of our concerns, not in a cosmetic way, but in a real way, born from the establishment of a relationship of trust between workers and employers. An issue that he considers fundamental also from an economic point of view, since “Portugal needs to know how to attract national and foreign talent, and this includes offering good working conditions. Miguel Fontes also stressed the voluntary nature of the whole process. “It is a challenge that we present to society, without any imposition,” he said.

It is worth mentioning, as a matter of curiosity, that of the people who initiated contact with the program (directors, administrators, managers or human resources managers), 60% were women, when it is known that in the Portuguese business fabric, only 27% of managerial positions are held by women. This demonstration of interest for more free time does not surprise those responsible for this report, where one can read: “This happens because women feel much more time pressure. In a survey on time use in Portugal, 55% of women between the ages of 25 and 44 felt that they did not have enough time to do everything they wanted to do on a daily basis, while only 44% of men of the same age said the same. ”

In addition to Portugal, similar tests have been developed in countries such as Ireland, Spain, Belgium and the United Kingdom. In the latter case, at the end of the test period, 92% of the companies involved decided to adopt the four-day week as standard practice.


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