The dream of a shorter work week and longer weekend has crossed the minds of millions of workers around the world, eager to find a better work-life balance in the fast-paced society we live in.
It was perhaps no surprise then that Spain, a country where quality of life usually comes before career prospects, was the first major European economy to propose the idea of a shorter work week.
In February 2021, we reported on how the Spanish government announced it would provide €50 million in funding to companies who tested out the effectiveness of a four-day working week.
The aim of this was to see if productivity and wellbeing could be increased within a shorter four-day work week, whist maintaining employees’ wages at the same level.
A restaurant chain in Madrid, a hotel in Asturias, a software company in Jaén, an awning shop in Galicia and dozens more were among the businesses in Spain who took advantage of state funding to trial whether allowing its employees to work 4 days a week was viable.
The Spanish branch of telecoms giant Telefónica was among the bigger companies to test this, and on June 7th 2022, their management agreed with trade unions to extend the offer of a four-day work week to its entire workforce after the positive results obtained during the pilot scheme carried out since last October.
This means that around 18,000 employees of the company will be able to choose to work a four-day work week on a voluntary basis.
How will it work?
If employees choose the so-called Flexible Weekly Bonus option, they will work 32 hours a week, eight hours a day from Monday to Thursday, instead of the 37.5 hours they currently work from Monday to Friday.
However, the cutback in work hours will mean they will also have a proportional reduction in salary, even though Telefónica will reimburse 20 percent of workers’ losses.
Employees have form June 9th to July 15th to decide if they want to take part in the scheme or not.
For those who decide they want to go ahead with it, the four-day weeks will begin on September 1st and will end on December 31st 2022.
While this is only three months, Telefónica’s intention is to extend this plan on an annual basis as of January 2023.
Employees already participating in the pilot programme will be able to continue their four-day week in July and August if they wish.
How have the trade unions reacted to the news?
The majority of trade unions, including the General Union of Workers (UGT) and the Federation of Workers Commission Services (CC OO) have been satisfied with the extension of the scheme, although they will continue to seek to improve the bonus that the company applies, to make it flexible working more attractive and increase the salary.
This is not the first time that Telefónica has shown itself to be at the forefront of new approaches to employment.
After returning to the office after Covid-19 lockdowns, the company allowed its employees to continue working from home two days a week and implemented a mobile work model for its sales representatives and engineers, which 80 percent of the staff benefitted from.
Other countries trialing four-day work weeks
Spain has inspired other countries to consider introducing four-day work weeks. Recently, the UK announced the largest four-day work week trial of its kind in the world.