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Portugal Launches Government-Backed 4-Day Workweek Trial; Here Are The Pros and Cons

For the next six months, 39 private-sector businesses in the country will participate in a pilot program.
Cover Image Source: Pexels | ThisIsEngineering
Cover Image Source: Pexels | ThisIsEngineering

After countries like Spain, UK and Ireland experimented with a four-day workweek, Portugal is also exploring the concept and businesses are receiving assistance from the government. 

For the next six months, 39 private-sector businesses in the country will participate in a pilot program in association with the nonprofit behind the initiative around the world, 4 Day Week Global.

Workers get 100% of the pay for working 80% of the time in exchange for delivering 100% of their usual output. "The five-day week is a nineteenth-century construct that is not fit for purpose in the twenty-first century," as per Andrew Barnes, author of "The 4 Day Week". 

Employers have also agreed to reduce the number of hours workers put in every week and all this without any impact on their salary. Around 72% of the Portuguese labor force works more than 40 hours a week making it a country with the third longest average workweek after the United Kingdom and Ireland, as per the Portuguese Four-Day Week Pilot report.

What Is a 4-Day Workweek?


Workers are expected to do only 32 hours of work per week. Depending on the company and the sector you work in, you might able to get Fridays off. Other possibilities include the choice of an extra day off or having a company-wide policy of a different third day off such as a Monday or Thursday. 

Over 900 workers from 33 businesses in the US and Ireland tested a four-day workweek as part of the six-month pilot that ran from April through October last year. Workers said they performed better and were less burned out. Many said they could never return to a traditional five-day week.

The Benefits of 4-Day Workweek

Pexels | Nothing Ahead
Pexels | Nothing Ahead

The fundamental goal is to improve work-life balance for everyone working in the 21st century. By working for 32 hours a week, a person has enough time to spemd quality time with their loved ones, caregiving, doctor's appointments, personal development, education, travel, hobbies, home maintenance, and more. Those are the benefits for the employees but this way of work has a lot of benefits for the employers as well, like increased sales, reduced employee burnout, better employee retention, lower operating costs for an office, larger applicant pool, and open positions. 

Challenges When It Comes to a 4-Day Workweek

The 10-hour-long work routine can take a toll on many. In France, employees who were experimenting with the new workweek ended up working the same hours as before as per, PeopleHum.

Working only 4 days a week might sound attractive at first but many employees reported their rise in stress. Keeping the same schedule may result in the company being unstaffed for certain days. Apart from this, the 4-day workweek system may also increase business costs. 

Is It The Right Time For Us To Implement a 4-Day Workweek?


The five-day work week has been the norm for more than 100 years now. "Things are changing, I published my first book on this in 1997," says Boston College economist Juliet Schor, who leads the research for 4 Day Week Global, "but back then was unable to find any companies willing to reduce their staff’s workload."

That began to change several years ago when a handful of companies began experimenting. “But nothing like what is happening now,” Schor says. “Now, it’s a real thing.”

During the pandemic, stress and burnout skyrocketed and this new way of work-life has contributed in many ways. “The shift to remote work changed the way many employers started to think about scheduling,” says Schor. "In terms of your mental health, it can just be huge. It completely re-energizes you, as per TIME

It's Probably Also Good For The Planet

While it's really difficult to quantify the actual decrease in the carbon footprint, many businesses have reported a decrease in energy usage. One British study even found that the UK would reduce car travel by 691 million miles per week.