In a groundbreaking move, the Belgian government has confirmed its intention to trial a four-day workweek without a dip in salary, a step that takes its cue from similar initiatives across the globe. The experiment is an attempt to gauge the practicality and the potential impact on both employees and employers.
A Four-Day Workweek: The Experience
Véronique, a communal agent with over two decades of service to her name, has already made the transition to a four-day workweek, without having to compromise on her full-time salary. Her experience has been largely positive, with her reporting an overall improvement in her wellbeing. She has expressed feeling more rested and having a clearer mind when she returns to her desk.
Human Resources Experts Weigh In
Christine Nauwelaers, a human resources expert from Securex, is among those who believe that a four-day workweek could be the key to more motivated and efficient employees. Nauwelaers suggests that this could potentially lead to lower rates of absenteeism, a significant benefit to any organization.
Employers Express Skepticism
However, not everyone is convinced about the merits of this shift. Employers, represented by Pieter Timmermans from the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium, express doubt primarily due to concerns about increased costs. Timmermans estimates a potential surge in costs by 20% without a corresponding increase in productivity. This, he believes, could pose a risk to competitiveness. The pilot run will, therefore, test the theory whether the enhanced well-being of employees can counterbalance the potential economic ramifications on businesses.
This pilot initiative by the Belgian government comes in the wake of a South African study that demonstrated the effectiveness of four-day workweeks. The study, which involved over 28 companies, concluded that such a workweek can be just as productive as traditional, five-day workweeks. Interestingly, less than a quarter of the workers chose to end their week on Thursday, indicating a preference for flexibility. The study was facilitated by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global and involved a planning and work practice that lasted two months. This included workshops, coaching, mentoring, and peer support. Researchers from Boston College were also part of the study.