Implemented in Europe during the 90s, the 4-day week took its place bit by bit in Quebec. But, to remain competitive, businesses had to adapt part-time and demonstrate flexibility to their employees’ demands for balance and a better quality of life.
Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay, Certified Human Resource Professional (CRHA) and professor of human resources at l’École des sciences de l’administration of TELUQ [Télé-université], asserts, “At several points in life, this sort of time management will become more fashionable.”
Her studies on work-family balance have effectively shown that workweeks of four days are progressively becoming popular in the eyes of young parents and employees near the end of their professional careers. She explains, “Many feel they have paid their dues, but want to continue saving for retirement while having time for their grandchildren and hobbies.”
She remarks that a 4-day workweek is more frequently found in professional jobs and in the service industry rather than the public sector. It might be hard to get this type of schedule as managerial staff. It is often perceived by businesses as less favourable once an employee has climbed the ladder and is seen by colleagues as a demotion.
More options are being offered to employees. Some are ready to accept a salary reduction whereas others prefer compressing their workweek into four days while working a few extra hours a day.
Geneviève Morest, Human Resource Partner for the Centre de santé et des services sociaux des Sommets in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts explains, “In the public sector, it’s possible to reduce your salary for a certain duration to obtain deferred leave. Employees can request up to thirty days of unpaid leave each year.”
Another popular possibility is a nine-to-ten workweek where employees alternate between four to five work days a week. There is also the four-to-thirty-two workweek where an employee can work thirty-two hours over four days instead of thirty-five hours over five days.
A business benefit
Tremblay notes, “Small and medium-sized businesses cannot always compete with salaries, instead they acknowledge their employees. Some employers see it positively as a way to attract and retain their employees while staying competitive, especially in fields with a high turnover rate such as finance and information technology.”
Morest clarifies, “In most cases, employers are happy with this practice because it lets them reduce their mass salary. This arrangement is definitely easier to agree with when an employee’s absence does not negatively impact the team. If colleagues have to work extra time to cover for their day off, it is disadvantageous to the employer.”
The international model
Nordic countries have been interested in the work-family balance since the 70s. They have been concerned with reaching full employment while prioritizing flexibility and quality of life. Tremblay clarifies, “In Denmark, a type of hour bank for professional life called Flexicurity appeared.”
In France, more women work four days a week, similar to how the majority of schoolchildren have Wednesdays off. Among our southern cousins [Americans], job sharing—two employees sharing the same position—is the topic of discussion instead of balancing work and family.
Tremblay concludes, “The 4-day workweek is, without a doubt, the most desirable measure to reach the best work-family balance.”