Why don’t we all enjoy it? A weekend that lasts three days. Many employees dream of a four-day week – with these tips you can make it happen.

More free time, less stress: For many, the idea of ​​a four-day week is the solution to a happier working life. Does the reduced working time really have such a big impact? And what do you have to do to convince superiors of your wish?

Of course, the formula “four-day week equals happier” doesn’t work that simply. It depends a lot on how the model is implemented. “A four-day week doesn’t always mean that I actually reduce my working hours,” says Professor Jutta Rump from the Institute for Employment and Employability (IBE) in Ludwigshafen. If you pack 40 hours into four days, you have to be aware that you will then be working ten hours or more a day.

Does the four-day week really make you happier?

In some cases, reduced working hours can lead to more stress. “In Germany, the contractually agreed working hours often do not correspond to the actual working hours,” says Hannes Zacher, Professor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Leipzig.

A four-day week can mean that work intensifies or employees have to compensate for the missing time. “For women in particular, there is a risk of falling into a part-time trap. They then experience even more stress.” It is important to clarify from the start that the tasks correspond to the contractual working hours.

The hoped-for part-time effect

But if you can actually reduce your working hours and tasks, and possibly go from 40 to 32 hours, you will notice an effect, according to Rump. “That’s the normal part-time effect.” Anyone who doesn’t work three out of seven days a week has more than 40 percent of their time at leisure. “So time in which I have time sovereignty and time self-determination.”

In principle, employees in Germany have the right to work part-time, as Johannes Schipp, specialist lawyer for labor law, explains. This applies at least to everyone whose employer regularly employs more than 15 people and whose employment relationship has existed for more than six months.

According to the specialist lawyer, it is important that employees submit their requests correctly and in good time. The employer can only refuse a part-time request for urgent operational reasons. “The bar is very high there,” says the labor law expert.

Can i afford that?

In addition to the legal aspects, the question of whether employees can afford to work part-time also plays a role. “The reduction in working hours naturally has the effect that I have less money in my wallet,” says Jutta Rump. Accordingly, those who tend to be in the upper half of the salary scale are particularly interested in a four-day week.

Even if there is a right to reduce working hours, many shy away from the step of wanting to become a manager. Why? “It’s actually difficult,” says Hannes Zacher. “We have a strong Protestant work ethic in Germany.”

Many would strongly identify with their work or profession. “It’s frowned upon to want to work less,” says the industrial psychologist. Employed people are often afraid of being considered lazy and instead accept, for example, idle times when there is actually nothing to do.

“In addition to the face-to-face culture, there is still a strong full-time culture in Germany.” It is widespread that the number of working hours is equated with willingness to perform and commitment. “Research would say, on the other hand, that it is even more effective to work five hours a day in a focused manner than eight hours, three of which you don’t really have anything to do.”

The Effects of the Pandemic

And maybe these views are now more widespread – not least because of the changes that Corona has triggered in the world of work. “I do believe that the pandemic will lead to another change. In the past few months, many people have asked themselves the question of how much importance we want to attach to work,” says Hannes Zacher.

Jutta Rump advises: “Just try it! What can happen?” The times have never been as favorable as now to approach the topic, “just by discussing the topic of working from home.”

Zacher recommends arranging an appointment with the manager. In this fixed date, employees should state the reasons why they would like to reduce their working hours. “It is important to show understanding for the other side, for the fact that the employer then lacks manpower.” However, openness is also required from managers.

Entrepreneurial thinking pleases employers

Employees often have a lot of thoughts in advance, such as: Aren’t they all totally stressed out and isn’t there too much to do? How will the manager take on the issue?

Such doubts can even be helpful. “When someone puts it forward in exactly the same way and has already put themselves in the employer’s situation and perceives his position, it shows that the person thinks entrepreneurially. As an employer, you can only be happy about that,” says Rump. Then we can work together on a solution that suits both sides.

Employees often struggle not only with themselves, but also with reservations from their personal environment. You shouldn’t let that influence you. “It’s helpful to formulate very clearly for yourself what you want and to discuss that, as well as your own fears, with friends or your partner,” says Zacher. Concerns that a four-day week ultimately puts more strain on colleagues should not be decisive either. “Ultimately, the company has to find a solution for this.”