In the economic crisis caused by the emergence of the coronavirus, several companies around the world have introduced the four-day workweek model temporarily, in order to reduce costs and prevent mass dismissals. Even though this crisis management tool had not been used before the pandemic, some companies might introduce it, in the long run, thanks to its advantages. Let us see what can be expected in the future.
The issue of the four-day working week comes up from time to time. Not surprisingly, as this possibility becomes especially acute in times of crisis: in addition to reducing redundancies and wages, the reduction of working hours is also a useful crisis management tool.
Accordingly, several Hungarian companies switched to the four-day working week by the emergence of the pandemic.
Besides crisis management, there are several companies all over the world, including Hungary as well, where the model is part of everyday life. According to Miklós Antal, ecological economist and researcher, the feasibility and effects of working time reduction have been examined by a number of studies recently; however, there is limited information on the impact so far.
“In Belgium, one municipality introduced four-day work without reducing wages. In practice, the program worked as an economic recovery program: extra people were hired, wage costs increased proportionately, and so did employee consumption”. However, this is less common, as usually, the salary decreases in proportion to the working hours.
Reducing working hours is a very complicated decision. The best example is the largest German union, IG Metall that achieved with a strike in 2018 to allow members to work 28 hours a week instead of 35, on a time-proportionate basis. However, only 0.3% of the 2.3 million members, numerically 6,000-7,000 employees have taken advantage of the opportunity.
The introduction of the four-day workweek model depends on several factors; but in the IT sector, the chances might be higher than in less competitive sectors. There are already Hungarian examples where employees are explicitly looking for opportunities with flexible working hours;
therefore, there is a great chance that by the passage of time, this model will become more widespread in Hungary, resulting in a win-win situation.
Instead of 40 hours, 6% of employees work 30 or 35 hours a week at the IT security company.
“The shortened workweek appears at the company in two ways: there are those who work 6 hours every day of the week, while others try to do their jobs on the first four days of the week so that they can spend their rest on Friday.” According to the managing director, Sándor Cseledi, the experience is positive on both sides: colleagues are satisfied and it has never occurred that an important task has not been completed.
Furthermore, as relatively few companies allow 6 hours of work in the different departments, there are colleagues who have chosen the company precisely because of the possibility of a reduced working week.
In July 2020, Vodafone introduced the possibility for employees who become fresh parents to go on 16 weeks of 100% paid leave after the birth of a child, and offer the opportunity of part-time work in return for their full salary so that parents can spend as much time as possible with their family during this important period.
The terms of the initiative also apply to adoptive parents. “Since July 2020, 40 of our colleagues have taken the initiative. This means that not only one parent can stay home with the child in the first few months, but the partner can also enjoy this period.” – revealed the company to the Hungarian news portal Portfolio. By way of example, an employee of Vodafone Hungary was given 80 days of paid paternity leave after the birth of his child, that could be taken up for 1.5 years in consultation with his managers in advance.
The company does not have a mandatory regular time either. There are meeting-free time zones that appeared in the early morning hours and at lunchtime, as well as meeting-free Fridays. The company also has the option of working time arrangements other than working 4 or 6 hours a day, which is mainly preferred by fresh mothers. Furthermore, there is also an example of someone working part-time only on pre-determined fixed days of the week.