In a groundbreaking move, the Dominican Republic is set to become the first Caribbean nation to experiment with a four-day work week starting in February.
This six-month pilot program, following similar trials in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, will be voluntary for companies and won’t entail a pay cut for participating employees.
The initiative responds to growing demands for a shorter work week, fueled by discussions during the pandemic era highlighting that extended, in-person work hours may not necessarily equate to higher productivity.
What is the Dominican Republic’s four-day work week trial?
Starting in February, businesses in the Dominican Republic have the option to partake in a six-month trial of a four-day work week.
During this experimental phase, the standard workweek will reduce from 44 to 36 hours, spanning Monday through Thursday, while employees maintain their regular salaries.
Participating companies include the government’s national health insurance agency, power company EGE Haina, Claro (a Latin American telecommunications firm), and IMCA (a heavy equipment business).
A local university is entrusted with analyzing the trial’s outcomes, examining potential health changes in workers and assessing the impact on their work-life balance.
How does a four-day work week actually … work?
In a four-day work week, the workload typically remains the same. But companies, managers and their teams are forced to prioritise even more than they otherwise have to, cutting out, perhaps, some meetings.
But there’s something else too that a four-day week model must emphasise, according to the Dominican Republic’s Labour Minister Luis Miguel de Camps.
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“It prioritises people, improving health and wellbeing, and promoting a sustainable and environmentally friendly productivity,” said de Camps.
Where has a four-day work week been trialled — and what happened?
In response to the evolving landscape of work brought on by the pandemic, numerous countries worldwide have either experimented with or implemented legislation for a four-day work week. The United Kingdom conducted its most extensive trial of a four-day work week in 2023, involving 61 companies, of which 56 extended the trial, and 18 made the shift permanent. Approximately 2,900 employees participated in the pilot, leading to reduced stress levels, improved work-life balance, and better sleep for 40 percent of respondents.
The UK trial revealed additional benefits:
Decreased Sick Leave: Employees took less sick leave as they had more time for physical and mental recuperation from work-related stress.
Enhanced Gender Parity: Men contributed more to household and family responsibilities during three-day weekends.
In Japan, where overwork-related deaths claimed nearly 3,000 lives in 2022, major companies like Microsoft have also tested and reported positive outcomes with the four-day work week.
Are there other success stories?
Iceland trialled a shorter work week between 2015 and 2019. Approximately 2,500 public sector employees participated in it.
The results: Workers were less stressed, and productivity did not suffer.
The trial, that Iceland’s labour unions renegotiated contracts for more than 85 percent of the country’s workforce to reduce work hours.
But are all four-day work weeks the same?
In February 2022, Belgium became the first European country to legislate a shorter work week. Employees can choose to work four days a week instead of five, without losing their salary.
But there’s a catch: They must still work 40 hours. In other words, those who choose the four-day work week must work 10 hours a day.
In 2021, the United Arab Emirates government announced that all public sector organisations would operate for four and a half days per week. However, employees in the country still spend some of the highest hours at work, at an average of 52.6 hours per week per employed person.
How about going longer rather than shorter?
In India, recent calls for a 70-hour week have sparked heated debate.
In 2023, Narayana Murthy, the iconic co-founder of Indian multinational technology company Infosys, made the recommendation saying it could boost productivity and the country’s economy.
India’s economy is already the fastest-growing among G20 nations. And Indians already work an average of 47.7 hours a week, which is higher than the 36.4 average in the United States or 36.6 in Japan, according to the International Labour Organisation.
In China, some firms practice a “996” work culture, in which employees work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. The average work week, however, is 46.1 hours.
Still, Murthy suggested that the younger generation is not hardworking enough.
“India’s work productivity is one of the lowest in the world. Our youngsters must say: This is my country, I want to work 70 hours a week,” he said during a podcast. India’s labour unions have hit back at Murthy’s comments.