Traffic on a Monday morning on Malta’s roads is the equivalent to hell. You’ve been stuck at the same point for about 15 minutes and as you glance at your watch you find that by now you were supposed to be at your workstation quite a while ago…a possible solution to this: the four-day working week?!
During the Industrial Revolution period, labor leaders fought for the “eight-hour day”. Until that point, it was normal to work six days a week, with a typical work day being 10 to 16 hours. With harsher labor laws and new technologies, a new way of life appears…
Recently, companies have been testing a four-day work week in many different contexts, with one in particular being “Perpetual Guardian, a company from New Zealand which manages trusts, wills and estate planning.” Between March and April of 2018 almost 250 employees of the firm worked four days for 8 hours, but got paid for five. The company affirmed that the experiment was a resounding success, arguing that its employees are much more productive, if they have more time to recuperate and balance other commitments.
Advocates of the four-day work week state that a briefer working week aids employees looking for more flexibility, including people trying to balance taking care of children or other relatives. “For us, this is about our company getting improved productivity from greater workplace efficiencies… there’s no downside for us,” said Andrew Barnes, Perpetual Guardian’s founder in an interview in October 2018. The firm will adopt this measure permanently.
Data collected by the University of Auckland’s Business School in the form of a qualitative research report written by Dr. Helen Delaney on the experiment showed the impact of reduced working hours on non-work lives. Interviewees are making a link between being less stressed due to shorter work hours and being able to use public transport or walk: “…But I enjoyed that, because I’d come in and I was less stressed, so I’d catch the bus rather than driving. So I saved some money on transport costs actually. The odd days I went for a walk and went for a coffee in my neighborhood rather than racing over the road….”
Blog posts on debatingeurope.com the topic hit yet another nerve: Instead of focusing on the positives a debate emerged focusing exclusively on who will be entitled to the four-day working week. Will service industry workers such as doctors, nurses, bus drivers, etc. be able to join in? A question very valid for all discussions around flexible workhours and locations and to be answered for each specific context differently.
The Maltese work on average 40 hours a week, while several other industrialized nations work less than 40 hours, e.g. the Netherlands (average 29 hours) and Denmark and Norway (average 33 hours).  Adding on top of pure workhours the time spent to get to your office and back (estimate 1 hour per day), approximately 45 hours a week are spent with work-related tasks for those of us not working from home.
Flexible working hours and location arrangements have the potential to bring positive change.
PAF (Project Aegle Foundation) conducted a survey online between November 2018 and February 2019 with various Maltese businesses, which were asked on their understanding, regulations and attitudes towards flexible working arrangements. Those are schemes, which offer a variation from the traditional 9 to 5 work day and location, through flexible timing, a compressed work week, reduced hours, leave hours and a “results focused” work environment.
When asked if traffic congestion is affecting the productivity of one’s business, the overwhelming majority of the participants (79 %) answered yes.
A quarter of the businesses have begun offering flexible working arrangements less than 5 years ago, while 22% don’t offer any similar agreements. Individuals actively seeking flexible work arrangements are predominantly between 20 and 40 years old, the time in your life during which one often has other priorities such as child care.
Businesses identified major concerns in relation to flexible work arrangements such as: disruption of the business organization, monitoring employees and security, but they also identified benefitting e.g. through lower employee absenteeism, better work life balance and less time spent in traffic as employees have the option to avoid the rush hour.
If handled in a professional way, built on trust between employer and employee concerns may be solved rapidly. When asked if businesses would be willing to take a look at flexible arrangements if they were offered expert or financial assistance, most of those taking the survey responded positively, so there is interest in the arrangement locally.
A four-day working week or the use of more flexible working arrangements among Maltese businesses may be the next step to help decrease traffic on our roads.
Take a look at the individual articles and our compiled data about the issue and let us know what you think on [email protected] or drop us a line on our Facebook page.
PAF’s mission is to advance sustainable mobility solutions improving Malta’s traffic situation, thereby enhancing quality of life and environmental conditions for the Maltese population.
Charlene Pace, Research Officer, PAF
· Ainge Roy Eleanor. 'No downside': New Zealand firm adopts four-day week after successful trial. Published in The Guardian on 2nd Oct. 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/02/no-downside-new-zealand-firm-adopts-four-day-week-after-successful-trial · Delaney Helen. Perpetual Guardian’s 4-day workweek trial: Qualitative research analysis. Report published by the University of Auckland Business School on 15th June 2018. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a93121d3917ee828d5f282b/t/5b4e425c8a922dd864bd18d0/1531855454772/Final+Perpetual+Guardian+report_Dr+Helen+Delaney_July+2018.pdf · Dodgson Lindsay. 3-day weekends could make people happier and more productive. Published in Business Insider on 1st Oct. 2018. https://www.businessinsider.com/4-day-week-could-make-people-happier-more-productive-oxford-study-2018-10?r=US&IR=T · Harris Briony. New Zealand firm adopts its four-day working week permanently. Published in World Economic Forum on 20th July 2018. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/working-fewer-hours-makes-you-productive-new-zealand-trial/ · Kurtz Annalyn. Best in the World – World’s shortest work weeks. Published in CNN Money on 10th July 2013. https://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2013/07/10/worlds-shortest-work-weeks/index.html · Should everyone have a four-day work week? With reference to the comment section. Published in Debating Europe on 14th Aug. 2018. https://www.debatingeurope.eu/2018/08/14/should-everyone-have-a-four-day-work-week/#.XGFInzNKjcs · Working Conditions in Malta published by Internations.org. https://www.internations.org/malta-expats/guide/working-in-malta-15758/working-conditions-in-malta-  Ainge Roy Eleanor. 'No downside': New Zealand firm adopts four-day week after successful trial. Published in The Guardian on 2nd Oct. 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/02/no-downside-new-zealand-firm-adopts-four-day-week-after-successful-trial  Ibid.  Ibid.  Harris Briony. New Zealand firm adopts its four-day working week permanently. Published in World Economic Forum on 20th July 2018. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/working-fewer-hours-makes-you-productive-new-zealand-trial/  Delaney Helen. Perpetual Guardian’s 4-day workweek trial: Qualitative research analysis. Report published by the University of Auckland Business School on 15th June 2018. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a93121d3917ee828d5f282b/t/5b4e425c8a922dd864bd18d0/1531855454772/Final+Perpetual+Guardian+report_Dr+Helen+Delaney_July+2018.pdf (p.21)  Should everyone have a four-day work week? With reference to the comment section. Published in Debating Europe on 14th Aug. 2018. https://www.debatingeurope.eu/2018/08/14/should-everyone-have-a-four-day-work-week/#.XGFInzNKjcs  Kurtz Annalyn. Best in the World – World’s shortest work weeks. Published in CNN Money on 10th July 2013. https://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2013/07/10/worlds-shortest-work-weeks/index.html