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4-day week - the future of work?

31/08/2023 2023/08

7, 6, 5... 4-day week?

In view of the weekly working hours in the last decades, this advance seems to be a continuing development. The average weekly working time has decreased by more than 50% since 1825. A trend that only came to a stop in the post-war years. At the end of the 19th century, a 7-day working week was still the norm. 70 to 80 working hours were considered the rule. This changed around 1900 when the 6-day week with around 60 hours was introduced. This was followed by the 8-hour day in 1918, the transition to the 5-day week in 1956 and the gradual introduction of the 40-hour week in various industries in the 1960s and 1970s. For many, however, this 40-hour week is no longer the norm for full-time employment.

In Japan, Microsoft has tested a 4-day week with a full wage adjustment with its 2,300 employees and has reported a 40% increase in productivity.

Volkswagen has already tested an even more "compact" model. The 28.8-hour week, which was introduced in 1994, has largely prevented redundancies. Could this also be a model for surviving the current Corona crisis?

In the crisis - less is more

Similar to the example of VW, which was helped through a crisis by adjusting its working time model, the suitability of the 4-day week was equally demonstrated during the Corona crisis.

During this time, many companies used short-time work to save jobs. The working hours of employees were reduced, and with them the number of working days per week in some cases. The proportion of hours lost in each case was then remunerated by state funding at 60% of the net wage. This is a model that works in emergency situations. However, if there were a general changeover to a 4-day week, the many small and medium-sized companies that characterize the German economic landscape would hardly be able to cope with such wage compensation in the event of a reduction in hours.

In some existential situations, such as the Corona crisis, the unions and employees seemed willing to talk. Especially since such a development could also be in the interest of each individual. The preservation of one's own job is not the only important point here. Even in the 1950s, "Saturdays are for me" was written on posters. The need for more time for private life, more opportunities for individual development outside of work and a better work-life balance seem to be more topical than ever.

The average weekly working time has decreased by more than 50% since 1825.

4-day week - what exactly does that mean?

The 4-day week is a working time model in which the usual working week of five days is reduced to four days. Instead of working five days a week, employees who use this model have the option of spreading their working hours over four days, with the fifth day counting as another day off.

A long weekend, 2 times 2 working days or 3+1? The options for implementation are many.In some cases, the working time per day is extended in order to maintain the required weekly working time. This means that longer working days are worked to compensate for the lost working time of the day off. In other cases, the working time per day is maintained and the weekly working time is simply reduced by one day.

Advantages of the 4-day week

The main objective of the 4-day week is to provide employees a work-life balance. By having an extra day off during the week, there is also more time for personal interests, leisure activities, recreation or taking care of family and loved ones. This can lead to a reduction in stress, lower the risk of burnout and improve the overall well-being of employees :inside.

But it's not just employees enjoy the benefits. Studies have shown that employees who benefit from such a working time model are often more motivated and productive. A better work-life balance can lead to higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover. In addition, the 4-day week can help improve the company's image and be perceived as an attractive employer on the market.

Attention should also be paid to the sustainable aspect of the working time model.  Fewer working days mean less commuting and therefore less traffic congestion and emissions. In addition, the extra free time could enable people to adopt more sustainable lifestyles, such as increased use of public transportation or carpooling.

How would you design it for yourself?
The time of classic working time models seems to be over.
The time of classic working time models seems to be over.

Remaining flexible - even in the future

The conclusion of the study "The Workforce View 2020" with 30,000 respondents pointed to increasing the quality of working time instead of the quantity. Ultimately, it is a matter of choosing a working time model that both the company and the employees support. In the best case scenario, this results in improvements for both sides, such as efficiency gains, increased satisfaction and fewer sick days.


The 4-day week offers a promising alternative to the traditional work model. With more free time, less stress and increased productivity, it can revolutionize working life and lead to a better work-life balance. Thus, the 4-day week could be the key to a happier and more productive working world.

And how would you make it work for you? How many days, with how many hours? As you can see, there seem to be countless possible combinations. Another indication that whoever says: The time of the classic working time models is over, is right.

The introduction of the working time model should not be an obstacle either. We support companies in answering any questions for themselves and in changing the set screws that are needed to ensure that the changeover works as smoothly as possible.

About the Author
Sally Kießling
Employer Branding Consultant

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