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4-day workweek: European countries which let you work less

4-day workweek: European countries which let you work less Worker in Iceland (
Author: Maria Kholina

After the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, an increasing number of people are opting for remote work and seeking opportunities to work fewer days. Some EU countries have or are in the process of switching to a four-day workweek, according to

Belgium transitioned to a four-day workweek two years ago. In November 2022, Belgium passed a law allowing a four-day work schedule, providing people and companies more freedom in organizing their working hours, explained the Belgian Prime Minister.

According to a survey by the HR company Acerta, the percentage of staff choosing to work on a reduced schedule has since increased by 56.5%. Employees either work 9.5 hours a day for a 38-hour workweek or 10 hours a day to meet the requirements of a 40-hour workweek.

77% of respondents chose a shortened week to have more time for personal life, 36.5% to reduce workload, and 29% to spend more time with children.

Iceland successfully tested the shortened workweek, implementing it as one of the first countries in the world.

Чотириденний робочий тиждень. У яких країнах Європи можна менше працювати

Photo: Employee stress and exhaustion are reduced with a 4-day work week (

The trial, conducted from 2015 to 2019, saw almost 90% of Icelandic workers reduce their working hours, leading to reduced stress and fatigue, and an improved work-life balance.

In France, entrepreneurs are increasingly implementing a four-day workweek, although it is not legislated. The country introduced a 35-hour workweek over 20 years ago, possibly contributing to the shift in companies adopting a new schedule. 10,000 workers in the country already work only four days a week.

In Lithuania, parents with young children have been allowed to work only 32 hours a week since 2021. While this category of workers already operates on a four-day week, it is not legally established.

According to a survey, 51% of respondents are willing to support a four-day workweek, 35% are against it, and 14% are undecided. The idea is more supported by women and those under 30, while workers over 50 and retirees more often oppose it.

Denmark and the Netherlands have the shortest workweeks in Europe. The average workweek duration in the Netherlands is 29 hours – the shortest in Europe, allowing employees to work four days a week based on agreements.

Чотириденний робочий тиждень. У яких країнах Європи можна менше працювати

Photo: Office in Amsterdam (

In Denmark, workers are required to work 33 hours a week. With this workload, they can work a little over eight hours a day for four days or half a day on Fridays.

Germany, Spain, and Portugal are testing workload reduction. A four-day workweek is still under trial in these countries. The Spanish government agreed to a 32-hour workweek for 3 years, with workers maintaining their salaries.

In Germany, the average workweek duration is 34.2 hours, and there are experiments with a new schedule initiated by trade unions seeking reduced working hours. According to a Forsa survey, 71% of people working in Germany would like the option to work only four days a week.

Portugal recently began testing a four-day workweek in June 2023, involving 39 companies. Three-quarters of Portuguese workers currently work more than 40 hours a week, so the new initiative is expected to reduce their workload and potentially impact productivity significantly.

Чотириденний робочий тиждень. У яких країнах Європи можна менше працювати

Photo: Germany is testing a shorter workweek (

Benefits of shorter workweek

The benefits of a shortened workweek are considered to outweigh the drawbacks. Hundreds of companies participating in four-day pilot projects found increased productivity, reduced costs, and a higher number of job applicants.

This also allows to attract better candidates and decrease employee turnover. Simultaneously, a four-day workweek enables employees to enhance their qualifications, contributing to a 25% increase in company productivity.

One drawback of this schedule is that some industries may not be able to apply it.