février 4, 2023


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The committee said that four days a week is a reasonable business strategy

The Oireachtas panel heard that reduced burnout, increased productivity and a better work-life balance are just some of the benefits of a four-day work week.

Activist Joe O’Connor said this creates « happier, focused employees, » and lower employee turnover.

He is the chair of the Four Day Week Ireland campaign group.

Mr. O’Connor told the Joint Enterprise, Trade and Employment Committee that it also provides more opportunities for women because it allows men to spend more time at home.

« There is no connection between working longer hours and greater productivity, » he said, adding that often the opposite is true.

He said four days a week would cut emissions by 16%.

It was « not about lazy workers wanting more time off, » he insisted. It’s a logical business strategy, O’Connor added.

Margaret Cox is the Director of ICE Recruitment, a small company based in Galway, and a member of the IBEC.

She told the commission that all of its employees have a three-day weekend, which includes either Monday or Friday.

A trial period allowed them to work out how to fill in the gaps. And they don’t take extra staff to cover them. But soon more employees were hired as business boomed.

Cox said the four-day week « has proven commercially successful ».

Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand company, turned out for the shorter week in 2018.

It stated that the productivity of its 240 employees had increased by 20%.

Business group says ‘inverse productivity’

Ibec agreed that the four-day week had advantages, but cautioned that it would not suit all businesses.

« Forcing four days a week would be counterproductive, » Maeve McElwee, IPIC’s director of employer relations, told the committee.

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She noted that the Wellcome Trust – « the UK’s second largest research donor » – had abandoned plans to offer four days a week.

It said it proved « too complex operationally ».

Joe O’Connor said research indicates that three-quarters of people support the government in exploring the issue, as do two-thirds of businesses.

He added that nearly half of employers – 46% – said it would be possible to prosecute for four days a week. It works when employees are encouraged to « work smarter, not longer ».

O’Connor said a four-day week could also be used as an « entry point » to improving productivity.

He said flexibility is crucial and cautioned against a « one-size-fits-all » approach, a view echoed by Epic.

He added that Microsoft Japan increased productivity by about 50 during a trial plan of four days a week.

However, Ms McElwee said the company had run into difficulties, and that the trial had « not appealed ».

The Four Day Week Ireland campaign will launch a six-month beta early next year.

Mr O’Connor said they will ensure « concrete support » is provided to employers who participate.

He told the committee that there had been an « exceptional response » with « more than 100 companies » expressing a desire to join the trial.

Ms McElwee warned that the four-day work week involves « increasing costs to employers, complexities in managing, and disruption to service users ».

But it noted an increase in remote work as 81% of employees surveyed in May 2021 said they would use a hybrid work model in the future.

She added that there are employers expecting an increase in the use of hybrid work.

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Ms McElwee said the national teleworking strategy would « further catalyze the development of a flexible and teleworking landscape ».