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UK Pondering A Shift To A Four Day Working Week. Could Malta Follow?

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Imagine having a three-day weekend. Well… a six-month trial of a four-day working week is set to be launched in the UK.

Like the UK, many countries are attempting to reduce burnout and uplift the spirits of their employees by shifting from a five-day (commonly 36 hours) to a four-day (commonly 28 hours) work week.

Around 30 companies in the UK have committed to this pilot, reducing working hours whilst keeping their employees on the same wages.

The four-day workweek has been gaining popularity over recent years, with culture changes tempting governments to shift towards more flexible working hours.

Some studies even suggest that this reduction may be good for business.

“The four-day week challenges the current model of work and helps companies move away from simply measuring how long people are “at work”, to a sharper focus on the output being produced. 2022 will be the year that heralds in this bold new future of work,” said Joe O’Connor, pilot program manager for Four Day Week Global.

Four Day Week Global is a campaign advocating for a gradual, steady, managed transition to a shorter working week for all workers, in the private and public sectors.

Not everyone within UK borders perceived the project as a viable one however, with Professor Anupam Nanda, Professor of Urban Economics and Realestate at Henly Business school being a prime example:

“The UK economy is service dominated, and with significant internalisation in the service sector, when many other parts of the world are working on five days a week, there are implications for companies with global platforms and connections if the UK changes to a four-day week,” she said.

But what are the pros and cons of reducing weekly working hours? What are other countries doing? And more importantly… what is Malta’s stance?

The dream of having a shorter workweek in Malta may yet remain just a dream in the years to come, with Finance Minister Clyde Caruana having expressed skepticism at the growing trend after his appointment in 2020.

Caruana maintained that a change of this magnitude can only happen if Malta’s labour force boosted its skillset.

“We cannot go for a four-day week or a week with fewer hours unless we’re more productive. At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

“If we want to get a week as short as the one in the Netherlands, where on average they work for 28 hours, [we must realise] they can do that because their skills allow them to.”

“If we want to aspire to that standard of living, we can do that but first we need the necessary skills and know-how. That’s something positive but we must work hard in order to get there.”

What are the pros of a four-day workweek?

Shorter working hours have displayed numerous advantages. For instance, countries centered around shorter working are marked with higher scores in the World Happiness Report Ranking.

Remarkably, this rise in general happiness did not accompany a dip in productivity. In fact, it was the contrary.

A study by Henley Business School even found that shorter working hours were directly linked to reduced sick days. In addition, they showed that companies adopting this system fared better at attracting and retaining talented employees.

And what’s more?

Shorter working weeks meant less running costs in general. Less water, less electricity. Cheaper bills.

And the cons?

Concerns about potential ramifications stem from staffing issues, principally, which is why 73% of persons in a leadership role are reluctant to embark on this change, as per a study by Harvard Business Review. 

A reduction in general on-duty staff also affected areas concerned with customer support. The issue was reported by 82% of businesses in the quoted review. However, the opinion was not shared by the same companies’ employees.

What countries have made the shift?

From Scandinavian countries to fellow European nations Ireland, Scotland, and the Netherlands, to distant countries like Japan and New Zealand, many countries have started trying to make short working weeks a mainstay of their culture.

Germany currently boasts the lowest weekly working hours with an average of 25.6 hours per week.

More recently, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has also taken this step at the turn of 2022, making the ‘new weekend’ start at 12pm Friday.

Trials in Iceland last year were reported by the BBC to have been an overwhelming success. They too reported a rise in productivity and general happiness.

Would you like to shift to a four-day workweek?

READ NEXT: European Airports Urge EU To Urgently Investigate Malta For ‘Breaching’ COVID-19 Travel Rules 

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