While the Finnish government has said that it is not considering a four-day work week, its newly-elected Prime Minister Sanna Marin had proposed the idea in August last year. She isn’t alone in her thinking.
A Micro Change
Japan is notorious for its long working hours. The aging population and labour shortage don’t help the issue. Last year, Microsoft introduced a program called ‘Work Life Choice Challenge’. It shut down its offices every Friday in August and gave all employees an extra day off each week. Other changes they made included limiting meetings to 30 minutes and using other means to communicate. The reduced work week for a month resulted in happier employees, boosted productivity by 40 per cent and saved money for the company.
Why wait for Friday to enjoy the weekend? A digital agency, Versa, in Australia made headlines after its experiment of closing their office every Wednesday for nearly a year was a resounding success. CEO Kathryn Blackham said that their revenue was up by nearly 46 per cent and the staff were less stressed and happier. “We didn’t want to give people a long weekend so they could go out and write themselves off every weekend. A break in the middle of the week also means they can get on top of work by Tuesday afternoon and hit the ground running on Thursday morning,” Blackham said in an interview.
If you’re trying to do business in France after working hours, it’s likely you are not going to get a call or email back. As technology progressed, being constantly connected often meant that you were constantly “at work” even at home. In 2017, France passed a law that established workers’ “right to disconnect” when they leave office at night. Companies with more than 50 workers have to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails. The measure was introduced by Myriam El Khomri, the former labour minister, who commissioned a report submitted in September 2015 which warned about the health impact of “info-obesity” which afflicts many workplaces.
Germany is another country that has been grappling with the need for work-life balance for several years. Former German employment minister Andrea Nahles has been calling for ‘anti-stress’ laws since 2014, with the first phase of long-term research revealing in 2017 that being constantly connected is causing more workers to retire early. Many companies followed through on their own. In 2012, Volkswagen stated that it would stop its email servers from routing emails to individual accounts between 6 pm and 7 am. A year earlier, Germany’s employment ministry banned its managers from contacting its staff to protect the mental health of workers, and, in 2014, automobile company Daimler introduced a software called ‘Mail on Holiday’ that its employees could use to automatically delete incoming emails while they were on vacation.