Will the four-day week at work make its way into France?

This flexibility has also become a selling point for recruiters. Like 100% teleworking, the 4-day week is now a recruitment issue. (©Illustration/Nina Gambin/Actu Strasbourg)

The four day week, a utopia ? It is now regularly mentioned (and sometimes implemented) when it comes to the organization of post-Covid-19 work.

Spain, Japan, Iceland, the United Kingdom and Belgium have taken the plunge. Even if it’s not always the same way. Because it seems that there are two ideas: that of working better in less time and that of working more in less time.

Employees looking for a better work-life balance are nevertheless more and more numerous in favor of it. Its proponents believe that when implemented, worker satisfaction increases, as does productivity.

Iceland had conducted the experiment in 2015 to reduce working time to 35 weeks over four days, with equal pay. The device has since been generalized. For three years, in Spain, the employees of 200 voluntary companies will work 32 hours, paid 40, over four days.

Socialist Pierre Larrouturou’s action committee in 1993

In France ? The question has been raised since 1993 by the socialist Pierre Larrouturou who even launched an Action Committee for the four-day week (Cap4J/5) and worked with the UDF deputy Gilles de Robien on the subject. Since then, the debate has struggled to take off in France.

Élisabeth Borne, who was then Minister of Labour, Employment and Integration, explained herself on this subject on BFM-TV on February 3, considering that this could not be “a general measure, because it is a question of doing in four days what we did in five days, and that can also be a lot of stress for the employees”.

“I think that there are companies in which it can be put in place, but it is not the role of the State, and in any case, I am not at all advocating that we impose a such a rule to all companies,” she replied.

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Will the four-day week (without lowering wages) be able to become more democratic in France? Several companies are already trying the experiment.

Nicolas René, boss of a company with 19 employees in the building industry, in Carentan (Manche), set it up several months ago, he tells The Channel Press.

And according to him, it’s only positive: “Working in construction is physical work, exhausting, it’s too hard to do five days. So on a collective decision, we moved to the four-day week. And for the moment, we only have positive feedback! In terms of productivity, we are even better, there has been no loss because we work less, but we work better. Working conditions are better, and recruitment is breaking records. »

Driving to work every day, staying in the office for hours when work can be done more quickly, attending inefficient meetings, these are some of the changes requested. All this, with the aim of finding a more balanced organization between work and private life

Serge de Motta VeigaProfessor of Human Resources Management at EDHEC Business School

“With the Covid-19, people realized that work is not all of life, there have been changes in mentalities”, he highlights. For Serge da Motta Veiga, professor of human resources management at EDHEC Business School, this health crisis would have “served as a revealer”.

Ecological?

He recalls the phenomenon called “The big Quit” (“The big resignation”) which hit the United States, where nearly 50 million employees left their employer, last year.

In France too – “even if it is impossible to compare the two countries”, he insists – at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, the number of voluntary departures reached a historically high level: nearly 520,000 per quarter, and , in most cases, employees left permanent contracts.

In reality, this resignation rate (2.7% on 1uh quarter), is not unprecedented in France: it had been exceeded just before the 2008 financial crisis. don’t want to anymore,” said Serge da Motta Veiga. It is not a question of working less, but of working better.

An operation – even if the French companies having taken the plunge are an exception – which can also have ecological virtues. “It’s several days a month when there are seven or eight trucks that are not in circulation, and fewer trips,” met Nicolas René, boss in Normandy.

And this flexibility has also become a selling point for recruiters. Like 100% telework, the four-day week is now a recruitment issue.

Faced with a shortage of staff that has become chronic, the starred restaurant in Perpignan (Pyrénées-Orientales) “La Galinette” also now promises three days of rest to its employees to hope to recruit, tell News Perpignan.

It’s not a fad. It is the result of a global reasoning on management. The more the team is in optimal working conditions, the happier it will be to come to work. It’s a philosophy.

Hugo DupontDirector of the Youth and Culture Center (MJC) in L’Aigle (Orne)

The House of Youth and Culture (MJC) in L’Aigle (Orne), as told The Norman Awakening, started at the beginning of October. “By mutual agreement, we decided to adjust the working time and to distribute the 35 hours over four days”, explains Hugo Dupont, the boss of the place.

In large groups too, some are going against the trend of “working more”. The IT company LDLC, based in Lyon (Rhône), has also switched to a four-day working week.

A measure that concerns all employees, from the president himself, to salespeople, logisticians… But in order not to exceed eight hours of work per day, and that this is ultimately counterproductive, the decision had been taken previously to pass the number of working hours per week to 32.

“Better adapt, for example, to the alternating residence of children”

In Belgium, the measure called “the deal for employment” adopted at the end of September allows employees to choose their working time and the number of days worked in the week (four or five), but on condition that they work their 38 hours per week.

This involves working four hours ten days a week to have an extra day off, or even working less one week and working more the next. The measure is not generalized, but offered to all employees who wish.

The stated objective: “better adapt, for example, to the alternating residence of children”. But already, according to a survey of more than 500 companies, relayed by the daily The Free Belgiumnearly 80% of Belgian SMEs refused this organization, since they considered that the model was not feasible.

Most companies worry that this will complicate work planning and jeopardize business continuity.

And above all, that it imposes a high workload on the employees themselves, “because working 9.5 hours a day is not an easy task, and with an increasing burnout rate, it is certainly also a concern major”, according to Acerta Consult, at the initiative of the study.

Long considered with a certain amount of skepticism, this organization “will come from companies, not from the government”, thinks Serge da Motta Veiga. Managers who have deemed it important to find a balance between the wishes of employees and the needs of the company in terms of work arrangements.

The example of Microsoft in Japan

“The emergence of teleworking has shown this. What still seemed unimaginable a few years ago is now being seriously determined by employers,” emphasizes the professor.

They noticed that work organization methods were not set in stone and they are now faced with new strong expectations from employees, which they must take into account if they want to retain their employees and continue to attract new employees. candidates.

Serge de Motta VeigaProfessor of Human Resources Management at EDHEC Business School

He recalls that the idea of ​​the four-day week had been tested in Japan. In 2019, the American company Microsoft decided to have its more than 2,000 employees work there for four days, paid five. And had found that the employees were not only happier, but significantly more productive… But since then, this has not been generalized.

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