Around 40 companies in Portugal are taking part in a six-month government-funded trial of a four-day working week.

Participants, which include a nursery, care home, retailers and not-for-profit organisations among others, have committed to reducing employees’ weekly working hours without loss of pay.

The OECD reports that 72% of the Portuguese workforce work for more than 40 hours per week, meaning that Portugal has the third-highest working hours, behind only the UK and Ireland!

The trial is being run in partnership with 4 Day Week Global, which ran a similar pilot scheme with 61 UK organisations last year.

The Portuguese government and academics at Birkbeck, University of London, and Henley Business School will measure the impact of reduced working hours on physical and mental health, as well as the economic and functional impact on organisations.

CEO of 4 Day Week Global, Dr Dale Whelehan said: “We are delighted to be working with the Portuguese government on this pilot, commend them for their leadership, and encourage other jurisdictions to act quickly.

“Our research clearly demonstrates the four-day week is better for business, workers and the environment, and we’re looking forward to this cohort experiencing the benefits of reduced work time first-hand.”

Recent Alliance Manchester Business School research found that 37% of employees think a change in working patterns, such as flexible hours or a four-day week, would improve productivity.

Portuguese Minister of Labour Ana Mendes Godinho said: “Portugal is taking another step in the future of work. The four-day work week pilot project assumes work-life balance as critical to attract workers and to improve productivity and innovation. The best companies are the ones who guarantee that they are providing space for talent and for fulfilment of workers.

“This is just the beginning – a promising start – of one of the many changes we are implementing in the labour market of a country that is experiencing historically high levels of employment and is eager to attract and retain talent.”

Dr Pedro Gomes, Associate Professor in Economics at Birkbeck, University of London, and Dr Rita Fontinha, Associate Professor of Strategic Human Resources at Henley Business School, said: “In the last 30 years, so much in society has changed: the technology we use, the speed in which we communicate, the types of jobs that we do, the length of our lives, or the role of women in society. Yet we still organise work in the exactly same way.

“We believe that the four-day week is a more efficient and sustainable way of organising work in the 21st century, and one that brings mutual benefits for workers, businesses and the economy. This is the philosophy behind this project.”
It will be very interesting to see the outcome of this latest pilot so watch this space for further updates.