Good news from Halle/Westphalia was not a matter of course in recent years. But there was unanimous applause for the announcement of the optional 4-day week.
For more than ten years, Gerry Weber has been saying ‘work when you want’, and since Corona, ‘work where you want’. From 2023, the motto will be ‘work as much as you want’, said CEO Angelika Schindler-Obenhaus in a widely commented and shared LinkedIn post. In future, everyone in Halle/Westphalia will be able to decide for themselves whether he or she wants to work five or four days. Only a coordination with superiors would have to take place, as the departments would be staffed from Monday to Friday as before. Employees can also choose to reduce their weekly working hours by 10 to 25 per cent, of course with a corresponding deduction from their wages. And a four-week (unpaid) sabbatical should also be possible every two years.
The media response to the ‘two to three’ concept was enormous. And not only in LinkedIn, where no one wants to be seen as an Old Work protagonist anyway. “YOU now have a 4-day week,” cheered the tabloid BILD. In a live vote on rtl.de, 84% voted for “A good idea”. The 10 per cent who clicked on “I don’t think so” were presumably employers who were annoyed at not having dared to take this step themselves.
In fact, there are factual arguments in favour of a 4-day week, just as there are reasons against it. Various pilot projects at home and abroad showed that the motivation and productivity of employees increased after the introduction of the 4-day week and the sickness rate decreased on average. Employees gain a day for private errands, which can relax life. On the other hand, the work has to be done in four days, which may increase the stress level again.
In any case, the pace is different, there is potentially less time for chats when the appointments in the calendar are tighter. This may increase productivity, but on the other hand, the time spent in the coffee kitchen may well serve a purpose in terms of team togetherness. Small talk has already fallen victim to Corona in many cases – in some video calls people hardly say hello to each other anymore.
Let’s face it: In some cases, an official four-day week only legalises what is already common practice in the course of remote work. After all, employees no longer have to feel guilty about going to the lake during working hours.
Flexibility in terms of working hours and location have become decisive arguments in the war for talent
There are undeniably cost effects, and they are difficult to calculate. Depending on the sector and activity, companies may be forced to hire additional staff to keep the business running. On the other hand, there are potential savings when employees reduce their working hours.
Quite apart from such cost considerations, an official four-day week in some cases only legalises what has been standard practice in the course of remote work. Let’s face it. After all, employees no longer have to have a guilty conscience if they go to the quarry pond during working hours. And as a customer in industry, you can often only reach the skeleton staff on Friday afternoons, if at all. The step from a 4.5 to a 4-day week is more of a mental adjustment.
The decisive factor is the signal to the labour market. In view of the shortage of skilled workers, employers must adapt to the changed needs of employees. This will not change significantly even if unemployment figures rise due to the recession. Flexibility in terms of working hours and location have become decisive arguments in the war for talent. It is only smart to be applauded as a New Work pioneer.
Gerry Weber is not alone with its 4-day week. Desigual started it in Spain a year ago. In summer, the initiative of the fashion house Rudnick in Aurich made headlines. This week, Marks & Spencer in the UK also announced that it will introduce the 4-day week in 2023. Others will follow.