Switzerland to launch its largest-ever 4-day week trial

Switzerland to launch its largest-ever 4-day week trial

A new pilot project is set to launch, which is designed to see whether a four-day working week is a feasible prospect for employers and workers in Switzerland. The first of its kind to ever take place in the alpine nation, the six-month-long study will see employees work up to 20 percent less than usual while receiving the same salary.

4-day week study comes to Switzerland

According to a press release from the project, created by the non-profit organisation 4 Day Week Global and supported by experts from the University of Applied Sciences in Bern (BFH), the 4-day week study aims to see whether a shorter working week is feasible in Switzerland. Local companies are currently being encouraged to sign up for the project, which is expected to last six months.

During the study, between 10 and 50 companies in Switzerland will reduce their working week by at least four hours while maintaining salaries as they are - though ideally, participating firms will reduce hours by at least eight hours a week. The organisers hope to show that staff will be just as productive, despite working fewer hours. The test phase of the project will begin in October 2024, and conclude the following March.

Shorter working weeks are successful in other countries

4 Day Week Global is most famous for a study conducted in the United Kingdom, which remains the largest four-day working week trial of its kind to date. From June to December 2022, 2.900 workers from companies in diverse sectors and of differing sizes reduced their hours while maintaining wage rates.

The trial was named a “resounding success”, with 56 of the 61 participating companies deciding to continue using the four-day week model after the pilot period was over, while 18 of these companies said that the new policy was a permanent change. The pilot found that 39 percent of employees were less stressed and 71 percent had reduced levels of burnout. 

The success of the trial also led to other studies being announced, the most notable being in Germany and South Africa.

Swiss study will focus on health impact of working less

While not as large as the UK study, Caroline Straub from BFH told the Tages-Anzeiger that the results of the Swiss trial should still be informative. “I'm particularly interested in whether the feasibility differs depending on the job type. I’m also curious to see how the results from Switzerland differ from those from other countries,” she noted.

Experiment organiser and management consultant Veit Hailperin noted that COVID has pushed discussions of “work-life balance” to the top of the agenda, making the idea of a shorter work week all the more appealing. He also agreed with Straub, noting that the Swiss results should be different to those recorded in Germany and the UK: “In Switzerland, we have long working hours per week, high productivity and a high part-time rate - that makes things interesting.”

While he conceded that Switzerland is “very very far away” from making a four-day week the norm, he predicted that the study would at least make it more approachable for local firms. In the future, he hoped that the concept would become part of discussiona when negotiating collective and individual work contracts

Four-day week "poison" for Swiss economy, say opponents

The announcement of the new project was met with a lukewarm response from the government, with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs telling the Tages-Anzeiger that while it would be following its progress closely, they doubted whether a four-day week would lead to benefits in every industry.

Last year, the Federal Council wrote that there was “no need” for a pilot project, claiming that the results of previous trials are skewed as only companies that could see the change working for them would volunteer to apply.

Rudolf Minsch, chief economist for umbrella organisation EconomieSuisse, went further, arguing that a four-day week is impractical for most industries and that the idea of a shorter working week is a symptom of an already affluent society: “We are doing so well that we feel like we can afford less work.” In all, he said that “legal regulation of the four-day week must be prevented at all costs. It would be poison for Switzerland as a business location.”

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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