100-80-100 – is this the model of the future? A pilot project in Germany will soon be investigating this question; employers can apply to take part from Thursday. 100 percent performance in 80 percent of the time with 100 percent pay – in short: a four-day week – will be tested over six months and the change will be scientifically evaluated. “We hope to raise the debate about the four-day week to a new level – with scientific support,” says management consultant Jan Bühren from Intraprenör.

The Berlin-based company is organizing the project in Germany together with the organization 4 Day Week Global. The non-governmental organization has already initiated such studies in other countries, including a highly acclaimed project in Great Britain. “It bothers us that the entire discussion takes place in a vacuum – because everything is only discussed in theory but not tried out,” says Bühren. That should now change in Germany too.

A four-day week is not the same as a four-day week

The pilot project explicitly relies on a four-day week in which working hours are reduced, but salary and desired performance remain the same. Other models, for example, stipulate that less working time also means lower wages. In addition, some smaller companies are trying a concept in which they work a little more on four days and then compensate for the extra hours of the previous days with free time on the fifth day.

However, the most discussed option is the first option, i.e. less working hours for the same pay. This is also what IG Metall is aiming for when it calls for a four-day week in its demands for the next collective bargaining negotiations in the iron and steel industry. The idea behind it is: If you only have to work four days a week, you will be more concentrated and motivated – and will still be able to successfully meet your requirements even in less time.

High approval for four-day week in survey

A study by the union-affiliated Hans Böckler Foundation recently came to the conclusion that the four-day week is a popular idea among employees – at least in combination with equal pay. In the foundation’s survey, a good 73 percent said that they would like a four-day week with correspondingly shorter working hours. Around 8 percent would also like to do this with less pay. 17 percent rejected the four-day week. When it came to the reasons, “Because I want to have more time for myself” was mentioned most frequently (96.5 percent). This was followed by “Because I want to have more time for my family” (89 percent).

Those surveyed who rejected the four-day week were particularly likely to say that they enjoyed work (86 percent). 82 percent were skeptical that a reduction in working hours would change anything in work processes. Around 77 percent assume that they would then no longer be able to do the work.

Medium-sized businesses association skeptical

Medium-sized businesses, on the other hand, are more skeptical about the four-day week. Individual solutions between employees and employers should be advocated, said Christoph Ahlhaus, federal managing director of the dpa’s Federal Association of Medium-Sized Businesses. However, medium-sized businesses reject state interference that stipulates fewer working hours with full wage compensation, “because reduced working hours threaten to result in productivity losses, from which first the companies and then all of us have to suffer.” He believes it is impossible that a significant number of members will introduce a “state-imposed four-day week” given the shortage of skilled workers.

Great employer approval after project in Great Britain

After the four-day-week project in Great Britain, most of the participating companies drew a very positive conclusion. 56 of 61 employers said they wanted to keep the four-day week. The number of sick days fell by around two thirds (65 percent) during the test period and the number of employees who left the company during this time fell by more than half (57 percent). According to the analysis, the sales of the companies involved increased on average by 1.4 percent during the test phase. Researchers from Boston and Cambridge carried out the analysis and also conducted in-depth interviews with those involved.

However, the results are based on the evaluation of companies that volunteered to participate. There was no random selection. In Great Britain, companies from the financial sector, IT and construction as well as the catering and healthcare sectors took part. In total, the companies involved employ around 2,900 people. Some companies introduced a three-day weekend across the board, while others staggered employees’ days off throughout the week or linked them to goals.

Intraprenör wants to convince more than 50 companies in Germany

In this country, the project will be similar to that in Great Britain: Interested companies can apply to take part from Thursday. Intraprenör has set itself the goal of convincing more than 50 companies in Germany to take part. The test period is scheduled to begin this year.

The participating companies should then try out the four-day week for at least six months. According to Intraprenör, within this period they can rely on experts, learn new methods and exchange ideas with other employers. Contacts with companies that have already permanently switched to the four-day week should also be made possible. The University of Münster is responsible for the scientific evaluation.