Article 3

2023-04-07 Zenia Simonella

Short Workweek: Work Less and in More Inclusive Contexts

The first experiments with the four-day work week have yielded positive results in terms of productivity, revenue, and satisfaction. However, beyond the difficulties of implementing this proposal on a larger scale, there are still some factors to consider. It will be important to address the issue as a whole to truly allow people to recover time for themselves and achieve a better balance between work and private life, while also creating open and inclusive work environments.


In recent months, there has been a debate on the topic of the "short work week," which involves working four days a week instead of five, while maintaining the same salary and level of productivity, according to the 100-80-100 scheme (100% salary, 80% working hours, 100% productivity). There are experiments underway in Europe, and in Italy, where companies such as Intesa San Paolo have carried out pilot tests to evaluate the impact of this approach. The first evaluations seem positive in terms of productivity, revenue, and satisfaction. If the measure is implemented, it will be important to pay attention to certain factors.

First of all, the number of working hours should not increase de facto in the four days, perhaps due to internal disorganization, simply because there is not enough time to do the job, and/or because this measure does not involve everyone extensively, i.e. functions of the same company, companies in the same sector, or in different sectors, which, for various reasons, cannot adopt the measure. This aspect could generate a debate on possible inequalities in the workplace (as previously happened with smart working).

It also seems difficult to apply the new approach on a generalized basis, with regulations that apply to everyone. [1] Here, collective bargaining and the role of labor unions, which are in favor of the measure, will come into play. [2]

Working more time in four days or working more intensively in the same number of hours could potentially generate forms of work stress even with a shorter week. Moreover, the latest data recently presented by an AXA study on mental health[3] shows that the issue is becoming increasingly relevant: in the sample of interviewed workers, less than one in four (24%) say they are in a state of full mental well-being (in Italy, the percentage drops to 18%). Not only that: the subjects who suffer the most in terms of anxiety, stress, and depression are young people between 18 and 24 years old and women: these are people who, on the one hand, perceive greater uncertainty about the future, and on the other hand, have a higher workload in domestic and care work than their partners.[4]

The "short work week" measure is therefore welcome, provided it actually frees up time for people to work less.

It would also be important for this measure to be part of a broader system of actions.

At the macro level, this involves improving the labor market (more job quality, less insecurity) and the welfare state (more parental services and more public healthcare); at the micro level, it involves promoting greater gender balance in the distribution of domestic and care work within the family. And at the meso level, it involves acting on the organizational context: working less is important for recovering time for oneself and achieving a better balance between work and private life, but it remains crucial that the organization be inclusive and not discriminate.

As we often repeat on this blog, in fact, a hostile environment has a negative impact on the psycho-physical health of the individual, regardless of whether the workweek is short or long.


iStock_Dzmitry Dzemidovich