The company shows how it can work

In town on weekdays, for shopping, hairdresser or doctor, to escape the hustle and bustle of Saturday. Or start a trip to London on Thursday evening. Who doesn’t love a long weekend every week?

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This is the reality for the staff at Vereda Digital Agency in Münster. Friday is a creative day, as the agency calls it. A day to charge the battery, take a deep breath, get new inputs, and go on journeys. But also a day to plan the family, try family time and run errands. “The day is used differently,” says Turben Atzberger, managing director of the German Editorial Network (RND), “doctor’s appointments, vacations, more training – employees can do whatever they want, it’s not the time to work.”

Four days a week: Increased productivity, efficiency, creativity and well-being

Last year, the company’s three founders worked four days a week. “A lot has changed in the world of work, and today’s demands are very different.” Entrepreneurs read case studies on pilot projects and thought about how a four-day week would work. Is the meeting really necessary and who needs to attend? What processes take a lot of time? On August 1, 2021, Vereda introduced a 32-hour week with the same previous salary. “We wanted to blaze a trail,” Atzberger says.

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After eight months, the summary is mostly positive: “It’s hard to measure creativity, but we say it has increased,” he says. Work is more efficient and employees are more productive and motivated. “The atmosphere in the team is completely different.” Two clients took over four days a week. Others, however, were critical. What if a customer encounters a problem with their website on Friday? “We created an emergency number at the request of the customer,” Atzberger says. There was one emergency during the entire period “and the issue was resolved in five minutes”.

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40 hours a week: historically a concept where only men worked

Historically, the 40-hour week is a relic of the first half of the 20th century. In some countries it was introduced immediately after the First World War, in Germany only in the 50s of the last century. The German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) has launched a campaign for a five-day, 40-hour working week under the slogan “Saturdays, my father belongs to me”. In the following years, unions fought to reduce hours, and the goal was now 35, but this was only enforced in a few industries.

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The forty-hour week comes from a time when there was still a strict division of tasks, especially in families: the man went to work, and the woman looked after the house and children. Today, on the other hand, men and women often work full time, 88.8% of men and 52.1% of women, according to the Federal Agency for Civic Education. This has an impact on how family life is organized: there is often more money available, but less time for household chores and childcare.

Full-time jobs are no longer fashionable

One result: the number of part-time workers increased for both women and men. Between 1985 and 2018, the number of full-time employees increased by 30.1 percent, while the number of part-time employees nearly quadrupled. According to Destatis, Germans actually only work 34.8 hours a week these days – but not for a full-time salary either. “There is a tendency among full-time workers to want to shorten their time,” says labor market researcher Werner Eichhorst of the RND’s Institute for the Study of Work (IZA). Economic status and specific job.

Age versus money is the question in this country. On the other hand, worldwide efforts are being made to question the old work-time model. The British are demanding a reduction in working hours, and testing phases have begun in Spain, the USA, Canada, Sweden and New Zealand. In most cases, the goal is to reduce working hours, either by taking a third day off per week or by working shorter days with five days per week. Only Belgium maintains a 40-hour work week with four days a week – employees can choose to work eight or ten hours a day.

Study from Iceland: Shorter working hours lead to better health

Pilot projects provide preliminary results. The largest was in Iceland from 2015 to 2019 with 1.3 percent of the workforce. In many sectors, productivity and efficiency were higher than levels that existed before the pilot project, people complained less of fatigue and tiredness, were sick more often, well-being increased, and carbon dioxide emissions also decreased. The police and city authorities dealt with more cases. As with digital agency Vereda, many companies have reconsidered their structures and shortened or canceled meetings and coffee breaks. The bottlenecks only happened in the healthcare sector — the state had to step in, hiring and financing new employees, Wired magazine reports.

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The lesson should be clear: Workers become healthier and more productive when they work less.

will strong,

Research Director at UK Research Center Autonomy

According to the study, shift workers in particular could have benefited from better coordinating work and private life. In addition, women were relieved that men are more involved in the family.

“The lesson should be clear: Workers are healthier and more productive when they work less,” Will Strong, director of research at British think tank Autonomy, told Wired. In Iceland, 86 percent of employees now work less — but sometimes just seven minutes a day.

Against the workaholic mentality: the “4 Day Week Global” initiative started in the USA and Canada

4 Day Week Global has launched pilot projects in Great Britain, Israel, the USA and Canada – thus in countries with a culture of workaholics, such as in the USA, holidays are closer to the next career step to give up. Especially since the start of the pandemic, says Joe O’Connor, CEO of “4 Day Week Global,” and Spiegel, interest in shorter working hours has grown. Democratic Representative Mark Takano told the magazine that economic, political and social turmoil is underway in the United States.

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Job seeker Eichhorst isn’t too thrilled. “Studies have a relatively limited number of cases, which is not feasible on a large scale,” he says. The introduction of the four-day week system in Germany is unthinkable. He’s somewhat skeptical that it can create as much productivity as with the five-day week, “that would justify the full pay compensation,” he says. Nor does he see a general desire for employees to have four days a week without this wage adjustment. Instead, employees in sectors with particularly skilled labor shortages will be able to negotiate individual preferences, for example regarding flexible working hours, mobile work or real estate support.

Most Germans want four days a week – even if the number of hours remains the same

This survey by RTL contrasts with Forsa. 71 percent of Germans would like four days a week, and 22 percent would refuse to shorten the work week with the same weekly working hours. However, there are only a few individual companies in Germany going this route. Among them is Vereda or Rheinhans, a management consultancy for digitization, a company that cut daily work hours to five hours on full pay and made international headlines a few years ago.

It depends on the activity and the job and also on the company how much work hours can be reduced, says Eichhorst. In some areas, inefficiency, meaningless activities, and work-life balance are addressed. “Some tightening is possible in some industries, but I would caution against ramping up too much,” he says.

Some flexibility must remain, otherwise creativity and communication will suffer. On the other hand, in nursing or in a call center, the options are limited: “It is so tightly structured that reducing working hours does not lead to higher productivity.”

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