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Government-backed four-day week trial commences in Portugal

The trial, which is being coordinated by a Birkbeck academic, will evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the four-day working week.

A concrete office interior with exposed piping and beams fitted with chairs, desks and computers.

Close to forty companies in Portugal will embark on a government-funded pilot program of a four-day week for six months. The project is being coordinated by Dr Pedro Gomes, Associate Professor in Economics at Birkbeck, University of London and author of the book Friday is the New Saturday, and Dr Rita Fontinha, Associate Professor of Strategic Human Resources at Henley Business School and co-author of the Henley White Paper on the Four-Day Week. They will track the experience of companies during the trial to determine the economic, societal, and environmental implications of the four-day week.

The aim of this project is to measure the impact of reduced work time on the physical and mental health of workers, as well as the economic and functional impact on organisations. Twelve other Portuguese firms that already adopted the four-day week are associated to the project, but will not take part on the evaluation.

Participants have committed to reducing weekly hours while maintaining full pay. Companies volunteered for the program without financial compensation and can reverse the policy at any moment, should they choose. Recruitment was open to all private sector firms in Portugal and the government is providing technical services, in partnership with 4 Day Week Global, to support the transition.

The participating firms come from a wide range of sectors. While most companies are engaged in professional, scientific and technical activities, the trial will include a nursery, a care home, a stem cells bank, a research and development centre, and firms from manufacturing, retail, and not-for-profit sectors. Their main motivators for participating were to reduce levels of stress and burnout for workers, and improve staff retention.

Project coordinators, Dr Pedro Gomes and Dr Rita Fontinha 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. But we still organize work in the exact 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. With the support of 4 Day Week Global, we'll work together with companies and their workers, to help them experiment the four-day week, and evaluate its effects in the context of the Portuguese economy."

CEO of 4 Day Week Global, Dr Dale Whelehan commented: "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."

The Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, Ana Mendes Godinho, said:

"Portugal is taking another step in the future of work. The four-day workweek pilot-project assumes work life balance as critical to attract workers and to improve productivity and innovation. The best companies are the ones who garantee that they are providing space for talent and for fullfilment of workers. We are pleased with the positive response to this experiment, and it is certain that it will not result in a reduction in compensation. This project will be closely monitored and evaluated. 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. The future belongs to those who can attract the best workers with strong skills and a higher level of happiness, in a globally competitive market where talent and people are the best resource."

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