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Europe's Shift to a Four-Day Workweek: Leading Countries Paving the Way for Better Work-Life Balance

In recent years, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns, the spotlight has shifted to the work-life balance, prompting a surge in the pursuit of more convenient work options. Remote work and the desire for shorter workweeks have gained popularity among professionals seeking a harmonious balance between their personal and professional lives.

Europe's Shift to a Four-Day Workweek: Leading Countries Paving the Way for Better Work-Life Balance

For those contemplating a move to Europe in 2024, we have curated a list of top EU destinations that embrace a balanced professional life by adopting four-day working weeks.


Belgium Belgium stands out as the latest European country to pass a law allowing workers to condense their work hours into four days per week instead of the traditional five. This initiative, introduced in November 2022, aims to provide individuals and companies with greater flexibility in managing their work time. A survey by HR service company Acerta indicates that 56.5% of staff have embraced this new work structure, citing reasons such as creating more space for private lives, reducing workload, and spending additional time with their children.


Iceland

Iceland takes the lead in implementing four-day working weeks, with nearly 90% of its workforce having already adopted reduced working hours to fit into a four-day week. The country conducted one of the world's largest and longest trials for this work practice from 2015 to 2019, resulting in reduced worker stress and burnout, along with an enhanced life-work balance.

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France

Although not legally mandated, the four-day workweek is becoming increasingly common in France, potentially influenced by the country's introduction of a 35-hour workweek more than two decades ago. Approximately 10,000 workers in France currently adhere to a four-day workweek, as confirmed by the French Labour Ministry.


Lithuania

While Lithuania has not officially enforced a four-day workweek, legislation enacted in 2021 enables parents with young children to work only 32 hours a week, effectively reflecting a four-day workweek for this category of workers. A poll commissioned by the LRT public broadcaster indicates that 51% of respondents support the idea of a four-day workweek.


Denmark & the Netherlands

While not legally implementing the four-day workweek, Denmark and the Netherlands boast some of the shortest working weeks in Europe. The average workweek in the Netherlands is 29 hours, the shortest in Europe, allowing for potential four-day work arrangements.


Germany, Spain & Portugal

Germany, Spain, and Portugal are currently experimenting with the four-day workweek. The Spanish government has agreed to a 32-hour workweek over three years, with workers receiving the same pay. In Germany, a trial period has commenced, driven by trade unions advocating for reduced working hours. Portugal initiated a six-month trial involving 39 corporate businesses in June, aiming to alleviate workload pressure on workers.


Pros & Cons

According to 4DayWeek, implementing a four-day workweek yields numerous benefits. Companies participating in four-day week pilots have observed increased productivity, reduced costs, and a surge in job applicants. Other advantages include better job candidate attraction, heightened employee retention, reduced absenteeism, and contributions to gender equality and diversity. Despite these benefits, it's acknowledged that the four-day workweek may not be universally applicable, with some industries unable to adopt this model.


In conclusion, the shift toward a four-day workweek is gaining momentum across various European countries, driven by the desire to enhance work-life balance and boost overall well-being for both employees and employers.

By fLEXI tEAM

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