Spain Is Slated to Test a Four-Day Work Week to Improve Work-Life Balance

published Mar 22, 2021
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The Monday to Friday grind doesn’t leave much room for rest and relaxation, with weekends flying by so quickly that most people don’t truly get a chance to disconnect and unwind. In a fairly unprecedented move, Spain is trying out a four-day work week, which will reduce work time from 40 hours to 32 hours without reducing employee pay.

As reported by The Guardian, the Spanish government has agreed to test a pilot introduced by Más País, the country’s small left wing political party. One of the party’s officials, Iñigo Errejón, shared on Twitter, “With the four-day work week (32 hours), we’re launching into the real debate of our times. It’s an idea whose time has come.” Errejón added that the move will “reorient the economy towards improving health, caring for the environment, and increasing productivity.”

He echoed those sentiments to The Guardian, telling the newspaper that “Spain is one of the countries where workers put in more hours than the European average. But we’re not among the most productive countries. I maintain that working more hours does not mean working better.”

The three-year proposal would cost the Spanish government around 50 million euros (or $59.5 million), allocating those funds to companies who choose to participate. The goal is for 100 percent coverage for the first year, followed by 50 percent coverage for the second year, and 33 percent coverage for the third year.

“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,” party member Héctor Tejero 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.”

Details still remain up in the air after the government approved the pilot in January, including how many companies will participate and for how long they will continue the program. Tejero noted that the program could be instituted as early as this coming fall. 

Although it’s a largely unprecedented move, the COVID-19 pandemic has seemingly shifted attitudes toward work-life balance in many places. The Washington Post reported that last May, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested that employers adopt a four-day work week policy “if that’s something that would work for your workplace.”

It’s clear that workers all over the world are suffering the mental and physical effects of burnout and increased job stress, though it’s unclear if the program in Spain will become widespread in the country along with spreading to other countries. A more balanced work schedule has been proven to increase happiness and productivity, as well as reducing stress levels and health concerns. The Spanish program could hopefully plant the seeds for other countries to follow suit and make work-life balance a priority.