Spain Proposes Going to a 4-Day Workweek

A shorter workweek actually boosts productivity.


(FotoAndalucia /

People who have a good work-life balance are happier. So, reducing the workday hours or shortening the work week to give workers more time to spend with their families or for recreation is a good way to increase employee happiness. It also, according to a pilot program that Microsoft Japan ran in 2019, makes workers more productive.

Now, a new proposal in Spain to give grants to companies that give employees an extra day off without any decrease in pay could give this idea a big boost, according to Fast Company. This proposal which would cut the work week to 32 hours is being considered for the 2021 budget as a way to help the post-pandemic recovery

This 50 million Euro plan would initially be limited to a small pilot program was proposed by the left wing Más País party according to The Independent. "Now that we have to rebuild our economy, Spain has the perfect opportunity to go for the four-day or 32-hour week," Íñigo Errejón, an MP from the Más País party told the Independent.

“It is a policy for the future that allows for an increase in the productivity of workers, improvements to physical and mental health and reduces our impact on the environment. We must put ourselves at the forefront of Europe as we did 100 years ago with the shift to an eight- hour working day,” he said

This policy was inspired by  the German program, Kurzarbeit, which allowed for employers to cut the hours of employees during the global recession with the government stepping in to cover some of the lost wages according to Fast Company.

But what Spain is considering is not a temporary measure and could lead to permanent changes.   According to Andrew Barnes, who launched a four-day program at Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand in 2018 and now consults with governments and companies who want to make the switch through  the organization 4 Day Week, the German model makes a lot of sense.

“I think the Kurzarbeit model is something that you can use as a stepping-stone. You could use that to say, let’s reduce the working week to four days. But if we then get that improvement in productivity as a consequence, then actually, as economic conditions improve, we could keep our staff on four days and go back to paying them the five-day wage,” Barnes told Fast Company.

Interest in a four-day-week grew because of the coronavirus pandemic that forced people to work from home. Before that, Barnes said that being in the office 40 hours a week was the way employers  measured productivity. But with people working from home, new ways of measuring productivity were constructed that showed that you do not have to be in the office to get the work done. Now, companies can think about the concept of a shorter work week.

“It’s made a lot of companies start to rethink how they are going to work, Barnes said. “They know they’re not going to go back to what we had before. So, what they’re trying to do is say, well, let’s have a think about some of the things. Progressively, you’re starting to see some large companies make the shift into a four-day week. And I think that that will accelerate as we go forward.”

Spain’s proposal would benefit employers and employees. A better work-life balance will improve worker happiness that will lead to better physical and mental health, lower employee turnover, and a big boost to worker productivity. It’s a win/win for all.

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