Ireland to begin testing the 4-day working week

Under the Four Day Week pilot programme, employers will introduce a four-day week for their employees over a six-month period starting in January 2022.

Four Day Week Ireland has launched a new pilot programme for employers to trial the effectiveness of a four-day week for their organisation.

The trial, which takes place over six weeks, includes business supports and advice that will help organisations explore flexible working smoothly and successfully.

“We know from international research that a shorter working week doesn’t mean a loss in productivity – in many cases, it is the opposite”

It is part of an international collaboration with 4 Day Week Global Foundation.

A core aspect will be whether a four-day week can deliver positive results for business and provide the work/life balance that employees want post-Covid.

Changing working practices

“In the last year we have seen radical shifts in our working practices,” said John O’Connor, chair of the Four Day Week Ireland campaign.

“More flexible ways of working are here to stay. This year has also given people a chance to reflect on what they value most and how they want to manage their working lives, and so now is absolutely the right time to rethink, review and change the way we do things, and move to a four-day week. We know from international research that a shorter working week doesn’t mean a loss in productivity – in many cases, it is the opposite.”

“The launch of the four-day week pilot programme represents an exciting moment of change for employers and employees, and it’s up to the business community now to show that they are willing to lead and support this change for the better.”

Major Government-backed pilot programmes of the four-day working week are already being developed in Spain and Scotland, and the four-day week has been successfully introduced in a growing number of companies worldwide, including here in Ireland.

“Employers who have already introduced a four-day week have found that a shorter working week can benefit their employees physical and mental health, as well as bringing broader benefits to society, including by reducing carbon emissions and supporting gender equality. For businesses hungry for talent, a shorter working week can provide a competitive edge,” said O’Connor.

As part of the pilot programme, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications have announced they will fund a research partnership to assess the economic, social, and environmental impacts of a four-day working week in a specifically Irish context.

The researchers will examine the impact of a shorter working week on private sector companies and public sector employers as they pilot a four-day week over six months. The research will explore the impact of a shorter working week on productivity, wellbeing, job satisfaction, environmental footprint, and household division of labour.

“When we offered the four-day work week, it was in the form of a bonus to our staff,” said Paul McNulty, CEO of 3D Issue, which has introduced a four-day week.

“At the time, we did not necessarily think that reducing staff hours would lead to an increase in sales and productivity, yet it did.”

“Our staff our happier, more refreshed and more engaged in their work. Covid-19 has changed people’s perspective of the optimal working environment and of work-life balance. We are delighted to support Four Day Week Ireland in its campaign to study and educate the wider business community on the benefits that a four-day working week would bring to our society.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 22 June 2021

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