Berlin, January 29: Germany is launching a six-month trial of a four-day work week for hundreds of employees, starting from February 1, 2024. The experiment aims to assess the impact of working less on productivity, health, and happiness. The initiative comes at a time when Germany is facing a severe shortage of skilled workers, which has led to higher inflation and wage demands. Some workers, such as train drivers and construction workers, are also striking for shorter hours and better pay.

The proponents of the four-day work week argue that it could boost efficiency, reduce stress, and improve work-life balance. According to the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Germans missed an average of 21.3 days of work in 2022, costing the economy €207 billion. Germany: Train Drivers Begin Longest Strike Yet.

However, some critics, such as German Finance Minister Christian Lindner, warn that working less could harm economic growth and competitiveness. Lindner, who belongs to the pro-business Free Democrats Party, said that Germany should not follow the example of other countries that have experimented with shorter work weeks.

According to 4 Day Week Global, a campaign group that supports the idea, previous trials in the US, Canada, the UK, and Portugal have shown positive results, such as improved health, lower absenteeism, and higher morale. None of the companies that participated in these trials reverted to a five-day work week. In Sweden, a four-day working week with full pay was tested in 2015 with mixed results. Artificial Intelligence Poses Harm to Employee Health: Frequent AI Interaction at Work Can Lead to Loneliness, Binge Drinking, Insomnia Among Employees, Shows Study.

Belgium was the first European country to make the four-day work week optional in 2022 but with the same total hours as a five-day week. The new law came into force on November 21 last year, allowing employees to decide whether to work four or five days a week. Japan has also encouraged employers to offer flexible work arrangements, hoping to stimulate consumer spending and birth rates.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jan 29, 2024 12:17 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website