Four-day workweek
Whether mandated or voluntary, a four-day workweek is shown to foster a dynamic and supportive work environment. Some of the countries that considered or embraced a 4-day workweek. Image Credit: Gulf News | File

More and more countries, states and business entities are adopting or considering a four-day workweek. It's done either formally, voluntarily or as a pilot programme.

Research suggests certain upsides in doing so. The World Economic Forum (WEF) data suggests that the new, shorter workweek helps enhance employee well-being, boost productivity, and make a substantial environmental impact by reducing commuting time and associated carbon emissions.

These are some countries, states and organisations where the four-day workweek has been implemented or considered:


Some German companies have introduced a shorter workweek, often coupled with flexible working hours, as part of efforts to improve work-life balance.

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People walk in front of the Brandenburg Gate after Last Generation ("Letzte Generation") climate activists threw paint on the columns of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany. Image Credit: Reuters

From February 1, 2024, more than 45 companies have signed up to test a four-day work-week for six months. The move reflects other European countries in recognising the effects of a shorter work week on employees and employers.


While France doesn't mandate a four-day workweek, many organisations are embracing it. This trend is influenced by France's implementation of a 35-hour workweek from 2000, which is deeply rooted in law and highly improbable to be revoked. France’s Labour Ministry says that 10,000 workers in France already work a four-day week, according to a Le Monde report.

Eiffel Tower
Companies in France already allow their employees to work 35 hours (the standard number of weekly hours) in four days.

Companies already allow their employees to work 35 hours (the standard number of weekly hours) in four days. In the northern region of Picardy, employees of an URSSAF fund (in charge of collecting social security contributions) were offered this option in March 2023.

In Lyon, the city's 9,600 public employees switched over to the four-day workweek system on September 1, 2023, Le Monde reported.


In 2021, Spain launched a pilot for a 32-hour, four-day workweek, aiming to evaluate its impact on productivity and work-life balance. Reuters reported on October 17, 2023 that four-day workweeks improved Spanish workers' health, such as by lowering stress while reducing fuel emissions and benefiting children.

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A woman jumps rope with a girl in Valencia, Spain.

Valencia, Spain's third-largest city with over 800,000 residents, strategically placed local holidays on four consecutive Mondays from April 10 to May 7, 2023, impacting 360,000 workers. Many participants utilised the extended weekends to adopt healthier habits, resulting in improved self-perceived health, reduced stress, and enhanced feelings of happiness and personal satisfaction.

Additionally, decreased motor vehicle usage during these periods improved air quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, the report also noted an increase in tobacco and alcohol consumption among smokers and drinkers.


Despite being known for its intense working culture, Japan has recently released new guidelines encouraging employers to move to four-day workweeks. The idea has been proposed in the past and implemented by some companies, with encouraging results.

Pet owners take photos of their pet dogs during a Shichi-Go-San blessing, traditionally performed for young children to ask for health and happiness, at Zama Shrine in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, Japan November 14, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

For example, by granting employees five consecutive Fridays off, Microsoft Japan achieved significant productivity gains, reducing office printing by 59 per cent, electricity consumption by 23 per cent, and achieving a 94 per cent satisfaction rate among employees.


Despite its small population of just over 350,000 people, Iceland leads globally in implementing a four-day workweek. Between 2015 and 2019, the country conducted one of the world’s largest and longest trials of this work structure, which proved to be an “overwhelming success”, according to researchers.

Seljalandsfoss - Seljalandsfoss is located in the South Region in Iceland right by Route 1. One of the interesting things about this waterfall is that visitors can walk behind it into a small cave.
Seljalandsfoss - Seljalandsfoss is located in the South Region in Iceland right by Route 1. One of the interesting things about this waterfall is that visitors can walk behind it into a small cave. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Consequently, many workers shifted to shorter hours, showcasing the widespread adoption of this approach in Iceland.

New Zealand

In 2021, New Zealand's then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested the idea of a four-day workweek to promote work-life balance and boost tourism following the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 2023, about 50 companies in New Zealand already have a four-day work week.

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Surfers prepare to enter the water for a sunrise surf at Sumner Beach as level four COVID-19 restrictions are eased in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. New Zealand eased its strict lockdown restrictions to level three at midnight to open up certain sections of the economy but social distancing rules will still apply. Image Credit: AP

The idea of a four-day working week has been promoted by some businesses and organisations as a way to improve employee well-being and overall productivity. Major Kiwi political parties say there’s no need to change the law in order to mandate it.

United States (some states)

While not a national policy, some companies in the US have implemented a four-day workweek to improve employee satisfaction and productivity. US states with, or proposing, a four-day workweek include California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont, the LA Times reported. Tech companies are also embracing shorter workweeks or flexible (or “hybrid”) schedules.


In the Netherlands, several companies and sectors have adopted a four-day workweek, partly to boost job satisfaction and reduce burnout. Based on government data, the Netherlands boasts the world's shortest average workweeks, with individuals dedicating just 29 hours weekly to their jobs. Despite the absence of official regulations, reports indicate that many in the Netherlands adhere to a four-day workweek.

A canal in Amsterdam. Image Credit: Unsplash/Tobias Kordt

This practice is prevalent, particularly among working mothers. Government statistics reveal that 86 per cent of employed mothers work less than 35 hours weekly, while 12 per cent of employed fathers also maintain reduced work hours compared to their counterparts in other nations.


Although Lithuania lacks a universal law mandating a four-day workweek, a 2021 legislation permits parents with young children to work 32 hours per week, compared to the country's standard 40-hour workweek.

A child plays in water to cool off, at the Lukiskiu square in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, June 12, 2019. A heat wave continues in the Lithuania as temperature goes up high at 35 degrees Celsius. Image Credit: AP

Consequently, Lithuanian parents effectively work the equivalent of a four-day week, even if they distribute their workload across five days.


In June 2022, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported that over 60 UK companies participated in a trial of a four-day workweek from June to December 2022. Initial findings reveal that more than 90 per cent of these businesses have chosen to persist with the four-day workweek. During the pilot, employers observed sustained productivity levels, along with enhancements in employee retention and well-being.

A view of fireworks over the Big Ben and London Eye to mark the New Year's celebrations, in London. Image Credit: Reuters

While business revenue remained consistent, there was a notable 65 per cent drop in sick days and 71 per cent of employees reported reduced burnout levels. The pilot test is based on the “100-80-100 model”, ran from June to December 2022. It means: workers receiving full pay for working 80 per cent of their previous hours, with the commitment to maintain 100 per cent productivity. Among the 61 participating companies, 56 intend to continue experimenting with the four-day week beyond the pilot phase, while 18 already made the transition permanent.

Work-life balance
To be sure, a four-day workweek won’t apply to every role, and across all circumstances.

And while not strictly adopting a four-day workweek, many organisations already follow alternative arrangements to enhance employee well-being and performance.

On May 25, 2023 Nicolas Schmit, the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, called on companies in the EU zone to roll out the four-day workweek measure to become more attractive on the labour market. “New generations have a certain vision of work-life balance,” he said an interview with the Portuguese news agency Lusa.

The story so far…

Whether mandated or voluntary, a four-day workweek is shown to foster a dynamic and supportive work environment.

A four-day workweek needs diligent planning and preparation, especially with manpower and the underlying technology to ensure efficient staff deployment and smooth operations.

The experience of those who adopted it shows that despite the transition, they’re able to keep round-the-clock operations going – by adjusting their workforce to ensure 24/7 reliability, thanks in a big part to digital tools.

The record so far: Success rates vary based on factors like industry, company culture, and implementation strategy.

Generally, implementing such changes has yielded positive outcomes, including heightened productivity, enhanced employee satisfaction, and improved work-life balance.