Almost 40% of employees in Flanders are in favour of a four-day working week, in which the same number of working hours are spread over four rather than five days. This would ensure a better work-life balance, a survey by researchers at the University of Ghent (UGent) shows.
The Federal Government's recently-approved labour deal gives every employee in the private sector the right to apply for a full-time four-day working week. The usual +/- 38-hour week could then be performed in four 9.5-hour days instead of five 7.6-hour days.
"Soon, the four-day work week will be published in the Official Gazette. Our research shows that this compressed working week will be massively requested," said labour economist at the UGent Stijn Baert on Twitter. "Employers may only reject requests for valid reasons."
An earlier survey by Baert's team (Stories @ Ugent @ Work) showed that 37% of full-time employees will likely start working a four-day week; 24% of part-time workers are considering going (back) to work full-time because of it.
"Among part-time workers under 45 years old, this even rises to 35%. Those with a high burnout risk are also more likely to start working the four-day week," Baert said. "Flemish employees expect a four-day working week would allow them to relax more easily at home, improve work-life balance and improve personal relationships."
Still, employees do not necessarily expect a full-time four-day working week to reduce their work pressure. The biggest expected benefit is to be able to relax more easily at home (43%), obtain a better work-life balance (40.80%) and give more space to personal relationships outside work (39.5%).
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However, the researchers warn that the benefits of a shorter working week have not been proven yet and could even have a negative effect – particularly for staff more prone to burnout.
"A shift in working hours does not necessarily reduce workload or work pressure," they said. "Indeed, people who work part-time often experience high work or time pressure because they often take on the same workload in a smaller number of hours, which reduces well-being rather than improves it."