I am not sure if you recall when I did an article on the subject of rethinking human resources by introducing shorter and lesser working days per week. There are some interesting things I discussed in that article, be sure to check it out if you have not. It turns out that recently Belgium indicated it is in the process to introduce a 4-day workweek. This is a bold move for those who have never considered shorter workweeks. I personally am a huge proponent of shorter workweeks. Let us delve into that and more in this article.

Belgium – An Addition To A Growing List

Belgium recently became the latest country to propose a 4-day workweek. Workers will have the option to choose it or not. At first glance, you might think this is a no-brainer but you will understand later that it is not that simple. Anyways, the rationale behind this 4-day work week initiative is to provide workers with a healthier work-life balance by allowing them to spend more time with their families.

The COVID period has forced us to work more flexibly…the labour market needs to adapt to that.” – His Excellency, Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander de Croo.

Other countries that have experimented with this model before are Iceland (from 2015 to 2019). It turned out that productivity levels were either maintained or even improved. Right now in Iceland, roughly 8 in every 10 workers are entitled to a 4-day workweek. Scotland, Spain, Wales, Germany, New Zealand, and Japan are other examples who have, are currently experimenting or scheduled to experiment with this model. Sweden experimented in 2015 but thoughts were divided with some for and some against it citing high costs of implementation.

Key Highlights Of The Rollout In Belgium

  • If you choose the 4-day work week you will be required to clock in 10 hours per day. (Bear in mind, the normal working hours are 8 hours).
  • The policy allows workers, if opted in, to totally disconnect from work (when off), without any consequences from the employers.
  • It is a draft Bill so trade unions will have to ratify it before other processes leading to it being voted for in Parliament.
  • Those who opt-in will initially do so for 6 months as a trial run. Afterwards, they will still have the liberty to opt-out if they want.

A Critical Analysis

When you hear 4-day work week the first impression you get is a shorter workweek, right? Ideally, that is what that should be if it is really going to make sense. However, it is not always that clear cut. Let me cite the Belgium example:

The normal working hours per day are 8 hours. Under the 4-day work week, the number of working hours per day becomes 10 hours.  Do the maths and you will release both scenarios to add up to 40-hour workweeks. Thus, a 4-day work week simply means fewer but longer working days. Ultimately you will enjoy the bliss of having Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off. I guess getting to experience long weekends every weekend can be alluring. However, I cannot help but feel that the increased pressure can even be more demanding than the traditional model. What I do like about the Belgian model is that once off you will be absolutely off.

I know the approaches are not the same for all the countries experimenting with this. My desire, though, is to see a model for a 4-day work week with the normal 8 hours (or even less) per working day being tested. If we are to really explore the dynamics of shorter and fewer working days; that would be the real essence of it in my opinion. I appreciate the intricacies and the economic implications but I believe interesting insights can be drawn from that. Do you think something like this can ever become the mainstream in Zimbabwe? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section below.

At the end of the day, there is no denying that many people have less time for personal or family time due to work commitments. Surely a framework that addresses that would be useful. I also have noticed how the pandemic necessitated certain work regimes that meant fewer working hours. This might not apply to all but there are some areas where shorter and fewer working days can be implemented without any negative consequences. I wish to see Zimbabwe also embarking on test runs to see how this all plays out. Let me know what you think in the comments below.