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Dream Of The Four Day Shift Comes True

Working four days a week and having three days off remains, to this day, a very distant desire for the vast majority of wage earners in Spain . However, the proposal has been gaining strength in recent years and more and more companies are beginning to incorporate it on an experimental basis.

The Desigual clothing store chain was the last major Spanish company to announce, last week, that it will apply this day to a part of its office staff, thus adding to the test that Telefónica will also carry out . In both proposals, of course, working fewer hours will also mean a reduction in salary , which takes them away from the original idea: optimizing time to work fewer hours for the same salary.

“We will see that this conference will be extended for two reasons : the companies that are joining receive enormous publicity and there is a very strong push from the employees,” says Claudio Aros, researcher at the OBS Business School. “The measures that have been taken so far always entail a sacrifice in the salary that the employees are accepting.”

Adjustment of working hours
The 48-hour working day was established in Spain more than 100 years ago , after a long strike led by the CNT union in 1919 and which originated in a Canadian-owned electricity company – which gave the movement its name – located in Barcelona. It was a pioneering legislation worldwide that was not extended – to 44 hours a week – until 1976, with the Labor Relations Law. In December 1982, the recently constituted socialist government of Felipe González announced the last reduction of the working day to date: that of the 40 hours that made the five-day weekly working day official.

Almost 40 years later, a possible further reduction in working hours has again entered the political agenda, albeit, for now, only in the form of experimental and non-binding proposals. Unidos Podemos carried out in its electoral program for the last general elections , those of November 2019, the implementation of a 34-hour week, which, however, was not reflected in the coalition agreement with the PSOE that the current Executive set up. .

The pilot project of Más País
It has been Más País, the party led by Íñigo Errejón and which has only three deputies, which has managed to champion a proposal for an experiment of four days a week . In July of this year, within the framework of the General State Budget negotiations, the Government agreed with the Errejonistas to introduce a 50 million euro item to finance a pilot project with companies that voluntarily chose to apply this day.

“We want to have many examples of representative companies from different sectors in the same country and see what problems a bar, a store or a software company faces and decide what public policies must be applied to help it be implemented”, explains Héctor Tejero, Political head of Más País in Congress and the person who leads the negotiation of the pilot project with the Government.

Unsurprisingly, workers are the part of the company that best sees the idea of ​​a four-day work week. A study by the Adecco Institute from February this year contained one of the few surveys carried out on the subject in Spain. When asked if they believed that the implementation of this day in the short term in their company was possible, 74% of the surveyed entrepreneurs indicated that it was not. However, the most relevant data is that a not inconsiderable 12% did see it possible while maintaining the day .

“It is to those companies that we want to promote and help with informative material ,” says Tejero, who, adds, that “when there is a reasonable number of companies that apply this day, it is only fair that it becomes mandatory.”

The advantage of being the first
The idea of ​​the Más País project is to give a boost to companies that are thinking of adapting their way of operating to implement this day, whose main advantages for the company are reduced expenses, higher productivity and less environmental impact.

Those who adopt it first also have the benefit of attracting the best workers in their sector in search of better working conditions and keeping their best employees.

“Since we adopted the day, we have not stopped receiving resumes,” says Ana Arroyo, head of the human resources department at Software del Sol, a company from Jaén with a staff of 180 workers that was the first in Spain to adopt the four-day shift days without salary reduction.

Delsol Software Company when they began to implement the 4-day shift, in January 2020
The company that has been working for a year with 4 days: “In our case it is a success, but this is not ‘Coffee for everyone'”
“Our turnover has increased and absenteeism has been reduced by almost 28%, they are very good indicators that make us see that for now the decision was correct because we have gained commitment, retention and recruitment of talent”, adds Arroyo.

Finally, it is also a question of image. For the researcher Claudio Aros “the conclusions that Software Del Sol has drawn about the well-being of its employees are still hasty” and, in his opinion, it is above all “an advertising campaign”.

Technology in all sectors
In a software company or an office, the introduction of technological innovations to optimize time and produce the same or more in fewer hours seems a relatively straightforward path. In other sectors, such as the hospitality industry, the solution does not seem so obvious.

“This is thought because we have very stigmatized the hospitality industry , but in the end it is the same logic as any other company. Where there is more innovation and technology we can reduce the working day by being more productive,” explains María Alvarez, owner of the restaurant chain La Francachela in Madrid.

One of the keys to being able to adopt the four-day working day in its restaurants has been to incorporate orders by WhatsApp to save table service . “What we have done is put technology into the business not to replace the workers but to improve the conditions of the workers and the productivity of the company.”

María Alvarez, owner of the La Francachela restaurant chain in Madrid.María Alvarez, owner of the La Francachela restaurant chain in Madrid.Elena Buenavista placeholder image
“What we have done is put technology into the business not to replace workers but to improve the conditions of workers and the productivity of the company.”
The workers, for their part, have enthusiastically received the measure: “Now it is true that you work a little more. You work four days to death but then you have three days of free time to rest and do your things”, declares Ane Sesma, a cook from one of the restaurants in La Francachela.

The ‘start-up’ Monei, directed by Alex Saiz, wanted precisely to focus on its 10 workers when testing this day this summer. “What has value in a technology company is the generation of ideas and the execution of work that is not purely productive, it is more important to promote creativity and the happiness and tranquility of the employee and that this reverts to greater productivity of the company”, defends Saiz.

A change in values
For now, the 32-hour day is still more of an experimental project than a proposal with the possibility of being extended. Virtually no one dares to propose its mandatory implementation at the moment and everything is trusting to the good intentions of the companies. A good faith that seeks to promote with public funds.

“If it is not mandatory, companies will do it partially because it has a lot of marketing. It has to be legislated”, considers Claudio Aros, from OBS. In Spain, the CEOE employer has not established an official position, although sources from this organization They admit that entrepreneurs are not very excited about the idea.

To date, one of the only historical experiences in which a workday of less than 40 hours was legislated was in France , in 1998. The balance was not very positive , probably because the measure was not well designed or planned, but the question is that, nowadays, it is not a reference for anyone.

However, the new trends and the change in mentality and values , more oriented towards the enjoyment of free time than towards the accumulation of capital, are the strongest arguments to defend that this day will end up prevailing.

“Everyone wants a better quality of life that happens by working less, also because the jobs are not being satisfactory,” says Aros, who predicts that “people will constantly ask for it and many jobs will end up being reduced, but it will happen little by little. little”.

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