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Survey: One in five SMEs open to trying 4-day workweeks

A four-day workweek trial in the UK was deemed a major success by most of the participating employers.

Työmatkaliikennettä Herttoniemen metroasemalla.
File photo of commuters at a Helsinki Metro station in 2019. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle
Yle News,

Around 20 percent of small and medium-sized businesses (SME) would be willing to trial a four-day workweek while maintaining salaries at the same level, according to a survey commissioned by the Federation of Finnish Enterprises.

If salaries were to decrease with the reduced working hours, around 35 percent of the SMEs said they would be prepared to try out the scheme.

The idea of reduced working hours aimed at improving employees' work-life balance has reemerged recently, after a four-day-workweek trial in the UK was deemed a major success.

Out of 61 companies in the UK that took part in the six-month trial, 56 decided to extend the experiment, including 18 firms that made it permanent, according to the Guardian.

That did not impress many Finnish firms who answered the federation's survey. The vast majority (77 percent) of SMEs with employees other than sole proprietors said they do not believe a four-day workweek would boost productivity enough to warrant paying workers at the same level as they do for working five days a week.

"In the opinion of the vast majority of employers, a four-day workweek without lowering salaries is not realistic. However, some employers are willing to experiment. There is some willingness, especially in companies offering professional services," the federation's labour market director, Janne Makkula, said in a press release.

More study needed

The federation noted that firms in Finland could try a four-day workweek independently, without the need for a government-led effort.

The survey found that around 60 percent of the employers saying they think a four-day workweek would weaken profitability. However, that the same time, around 40 percent of the respondents said that family and working life would be more balanced in such a scenario.

If a broader study about shortening the workweek were to be carried out in Finland, it would likely involve selecting companies at random to see the real effects on the various firms. However, this would also likely require help from the state to defray the costs involved, according to the federation.

Additionally, such an experiment would also need a control group of companies that do not reduce working hours, making it possible to see possible differences in productivity.

There was no such control group in the UK trial, Mikko Härmä, a research professor at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, told Yle last month.

The survey was carried out by data insights firm Kantar receiving responses from 1,038 SMEs. There was a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points in either direction.

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