A four-day workweek is pure utopia

The article was published in Børsen on August 23, 2023

A four-day workweek can increase company well-being and productivity, but that's far from true for everyone.

BY PETER ØSTERGAARD, CO-CEO, DELEGATE

"There are more important things in life than work." That's the mantra of advocates for a four-day workweek.

It is brave and forward-thinking to break away from the 37-hour workweek, as many believe – especially the companies that have done so themselves. The problem is that a significantly shorter workweek is entirely unrealistic for most organizations.

And it's a terrible idea if we want to maintain our welfare society. When you run a business like Delegate, which is supposed to generate a specific profit for our owners, you can't just remove the tasks we usually perform for our clients, for example, on Fridays.

It would inevitably mean that our productivity and, therefore, our income would drop by 20 percent. Or that we would need to expand our team of nearly 200 IT consultants by 40 to serve our clients.

The same would be true for most other workplaces. It is impossible to disconnect the link between working hours and productivity. Work doesn't get done independently while you're at home on the couch, spending time with your children, or playing golf, whether you're a crane operator, surgeon, or consultant.

Nuanced debate

I understand that some companies have experienced increased productivity and employee satisfaction by reducing working hours. If working less or in new ways proves effective, then, of course, it should be done.

But it's naive to think that this approach can be applied to all of us without having significant consequences for both individual companies and society. At the same time, we risk creating a polarized job market where some work considerably more than others.

We need to include nuance in the debate. That's why it bothers me a bit when business leaders or politicians see working less as the solution to all problems.

In a welfare society strained by demographic changes and serious recruitment problems, I dare not think about such a future model. From an employee's perspective, it is possible that an extra day off per week could be beneficial if one is not thriving in their job or is being pushed too hard.

Discontent should be taken very seriously.

But the problems won't disappear by giving employees more time off.

"We just need to be careful not to equate modern leadership with a departure from the traditional workweek. For many, their job is one of life's pillars - not just financially."

Peter Østergaard
Co-CEO, Delegate

Flexibility enhances well-being

It's not that I want to go back to punch cards and factory whistles. I also don't believe that simply being present at work means you're motivated and effective. Far from it. We must be careful not to equate modern leadership with a departure from the traditional workweek. For many, their job is one of life's pillars - not just financially. A good workplace is also where you build and develop social relationships, get challenged and recognized, and find joy and purpose.

At Delegate, we have been honored as Denmark's best workplace for women, young people, and the IT industry in recent years.

Every week, we ask our employees about their well-being. The keyword here is flexibility and meaning, not a shorter workweek. You can work four days a week with us, but you must do so at your own expense.

In principle, you can also distribute all your work tasks over fewer than five days, just as you can work from the other side if it is compatible with your colleagues and functions.

We insist that our employees find it great to go to work and that their work life is sustainable in the short and long term. Happy employees are the key to satisfied customers and a profitable bottom line.

There are more critical things in life than work. But that doesn't mean an individual's happiness is guaranteed by working less and playing more bridge or paddle tennis. We expect people to work around 37 hours a week and will continue to do so. Anything else is unsustainable and irresponsible.

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