A solution that has both staunch supporters and vociferous opponents, the four–day working week sounds like nirvana to most employees, but for employers it’s a hellish prospect. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a four–day working week and assess whether Polish entrepreneurs are willing and ready to take the plunge.

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Charting the success of a shorter working week

The idea of a four–day working week is nothing new. If someone wants to work four days a week, they will usually end up working 10 hours in one given day so as to reach the 40-hour target. The truth is however, they will often end up putting in even longer hours.

It comes as no surprise that the supporters of the four-day week feel that they can perform the same duties and tasks, counting on the benefits of being able to extend their weekend or take a day off during the week. And they also notch up 32 hours of work for 100% of their traditional salary.

Attempts to measure the performance of the four–day working week have yielded successful results in Iceland, and testing of this solution is underway in other countries such as Japan, Great Britain, Spain and New Zealand.

In 2019, the Japanese branch of Microsoft introduced a four–day working week, and this decision led to a 40% increase in employee productivity; and a 23% reduction in electricity consumption.

The experiment is now increasing in scale, and the data so far shows that employees are more productive when they work four days a week instead of five. For employees a shorter working week allows them to reduce operating costs and increase the efficiency of their teams. However, can we speak only of advantages in this case?

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The advantages and disadvantages of a four–day working week

Average weekly working hours have been steadily declining in most OECD countries since the 1970s; and there are several advantages that tip the balance in favour of the four-day week, such as
  • an increase in employee productivity;
  • a reduction in energy consumption;
  • a reduction in workplace stress levels;
  • maintaining a balance between private and professional life;
  • reducing the unemployment rate;
  • lower company overheads;
  • an increase in consumer activity resulting from the fact that employees have more free time.
Working in the new model may have disadvantages, which include:
  • a non–adaptability for some industries;
  • possible wage reductions;
  • increases in the costs of employment and onboarding;
  • a decrease in employee availability;
  • introducing additional tools for monitoring employee productivity;
  • work schedule planning.
The four–day working week model may prove to be an effective way for a company to distinguish itself when it comes to attracting candidates. And this is especially true for niche positions involving qualified experts.

In Poland companies are dipping their toe in the water

The number of supporters of the four-day working week is growing in Poland. Some companies have implemented their own solutions, they are:

Senuto – Friday is a day that employees can devote to personal or spiritual development. The employer does not hold employees accountable for what they do on that day.

Nozbe – Fridays is the time for employees to summarize the week and plan their work for the following week;

Kava – a company that focuses on a standard five–day working week, but the employees work 6 hours a day;

The Cogworks Polska – an employee may allocate 2 days for personal development and rest once every two weeks;

Tradedoubler – employees work a total of 30 hours a week (6 hours a day).

There are many factors that determine whether a company should look to reduce working hours or not. Much depends on the sector, and the organization itself. There is also the question of the maturity of the employees; and one of the challenges may be how they react to the reality of being given more free time. It is also worth taking into account long-term changes to work practices and potential blind-siding impacts. Indeed, the employer must know to what extent the benefits deliver bottom-line results.

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Is the Polish economy ready for such a seismic change?

To date, no legislation has been introduced that would prevent an employer from introducing a four-day working week. In Polish law, there is both a task-based and abbreviated model of full-time work. Currently, such solutions are introduced on the basis of agreements concluded between the employer and employee. Sometimes employees have to apply for a 4-day week by way of a written request.

There is no doubt, however, that in our country some companies have opted for shorter Fridays. In some places, employees can work four days a week and still receive 100% of their wages, while in other companies wages are cut in line with the reduced hours.

Polish companies have no restrictions when it comes to introducing similar solutions. Indeed, according to recent findings, the four-day week seems to be what both employees and employers are looking for. For some organizations, this promises greater productivity and employee engagement. However, it is not expected that the four-day working week will be legally binding in Poland any time soon.