What is the Council’s proposal to implement the 4-day shift based on?
The proposal has its raison d’être in the UN recommendations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. We have to urgently advance on different fronts, on the one hand in the fight against climate change and on the other in improving the sustainability of the economy and the quality of life of people. In Spain and the Valencian Community we work on average many more hours than our European benchmark colleagues and despite this we are much less productive. Furthermore, every time there is a crisis we see how we are more vulnerable than other economies. It is clear that there is something here that does not quite fit and a good way to start to change this is to rethink the way we work. Many companies have been betting for years on more efficient models that allow working for less time and doing it in a better way and with better results in economic, social and environmental terms. Thus, what we intend to do from the Consell is to support companies that voluntarily undertake these initiatives.
How will this measure affect the productivity of companies?
All the empirical evidence that we have indicates that dedicating more hours to work does not necessarily imply obtaining greater production. In fact, the most productive countries in Europe, such as Germany or the Nordic countries, work much fewer hours on average than Spain and still beat us by a landslide in all productivity indices. The key here is the production model, how we compete in the market and how we organize work in companies. We always talk about innovation as if it were just a matter of inventing new gadgets, but changing the way we work is also innovating. Taking care of our workers and involving them in companies can greatly improve productivity.
What are the objectives you are looking for with your implementation?
The main objective is to promote a change in the production model, this is a discourse that has been repeated for a long time. Let’s take action. It is about being able to generate greater added value in companies and to do so in a way that is compatible with life and with environmental sustainability. Reducing working time allows us to nurture a virtuous circle that can help improve productivity in companies, improve quality of life and fight against climate change.
How have business organizations responded? Do you think they are willing to bear the cost?
The response has been generally very positive. In fact, our initiative does not intend anything other than to support what many companies are already doing voluntarily. We are not inventing anything. It is true that there are great differences depending on the sector and the size of each company. It is not the same to implement this measure in a large technology company than in a small hospitality business. The problems and needs are different, but modestly this is where we think we can help from the public. We are convinced, as many companies are already, that reducing working time is not a cost, but an investment.
Is the Valencian business community prepared for this change?
Changing always costs, it is more comfortable to continue doing the same. But it is not necessarily the best. We certainly have a good part of the Valencian business fabric that is very dynamic and innovative, but make no mistake, there are also many other market segments with clearly obsolete competitive strategies and with serious training problems among entrepreneurs. Property is hereditary, entrepreneurial talent not necessarily. We have to accompany companies in this process, help them financially and, above all, provide them with resources that allow them to develop and implement new work methodologies that are better for their bottom line, but also for people and the planet.
Are there companies that already implement it?
Yes, both in the Valencian Community and in other parts of the world. Large benchmark companies, such as Telefónica or Desigual in Spain, or Unilever in New Zealand, have announced or are carrying out pilot tests and many smaller ones, such as Sofware del Sol in Jaén or Zataca Systems in Elche, have already been implementing the conference. four days or 32 hours a week for a long time.
What benefits can it bring to both staff and companies?
Working people gain well-being and quality of life, since they can better reconcile their family and personal life with their professional life. And not only that, having time available is an essential requirement to be able to have a fuller and more sustainable life. If we have time to prepare food or take a leisurely walk with our partner, we do not need to buy prepared food or travel everywhere by plane. In addition, if we reduce working time we can help mitigate the epidemic of mental illnesses that we are suffering and that also have a significant economic cost in the form of sick leave. Companies, as I said before, will gain in productivity and will be able to compete better in an economy that is increasingly based on knowledge and innovation.
Isn’t it necessary before a change of culture and habits?
To advance in the change you have to start walking. This is the important thing. It is evident that we have to leave face-to-faceism behind and bet on a general rationalization of schedules, also of the hours we eat, television programs, etc. It takes a big change in habits, to understand that time is a very important variable to be able to develop our lives satisfactorily. It should be remembered that the Corts have already presented the conclusions of the Special Study Commission on the uses of time to promote specific policies for rationalization of timetables. We made our contributions to that Commission, and one of the conclusions has been to support the measure to reduce working hours. Measure that has just been ratified in the Corts in the recent general policy debate.
How are you going to promote it from Labora and from the Autonomous Secretary of Employment?
We are going to launch by 2022 a comprehensive program to support the transition to the four-day or 32-hour work week. This will consist mainly of decreasing aid over a period of three years for companies that reduce working time and improve their productivity. In addition, we are also going to provide companies with training resources and hiring aids.
Will staff salaries not be affected?
An essential requirement for access to aid will be the maintenance of salary and staff. We are committed to this measure with the conviction that the improvement in productivity will compensate in the medium and long term for the eventual increase in wage costs. It is an investment that will lead to healthier and happier workers and more socially and environmentally competitive companies.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.