The Eurocadres blog

When is the 35-hour working week coming?


Time management a key concern for today’s worker.

From 9:00 to 18:00, with a one hour break for lunch. Complying with eight hour days and 40 hour week  is no easy feat, and has become more difficult with the adherence to this arbitrary target being valued more than quality of work, concentration or productivity in many cases. Professionals and managers are often victims of this cycle, with the highest average numbers of weekly working hour (49 hours plus) and the highest percentage of working time spent under pressure (28.8%). Despite this, few have questioned the established hour-based mandate, until now.

The Spanish labour market has changed a lot since the last time its Statute of Workers was modified in 1984. Before that date, the legal working week was 44 hours. But the future of work looks different: the time dedicated to employment tends to be gradually reduced with the aim of 32 hours a week, 13 hours less than forty years ago.

The COVID crisis afforded us the opportunity to place ourselves down at home and rethink our daily work model. The need to reconcile, to not dedicate our lives exclusively to work, we realised the time wasted in commuting to the office, the benefits of voluntary teleworking when requested and that preserving mental health is not only good for the worker but also has an impact on the company's bottom line all became prominent discussion points. By reducing the hours at work we see the potential for a decrease in stress levels, wear and tear, and the development of depression or anxieties on a wide scale.

UGT Spain is fighting to change these mental barriers that some companies have, namely the consideration that productivity would fall in line with hours worked. For forty years we have had an established working week of 40 hours distributed over five days. The world of work has changed enormously in this period, digitalisation has been introduced and a new way of understanding people's health has spread since the pandemic. The 2008 crisis brought with it a need for employment stability and in 2020, post-pandemic, what people want is to preserve their mental health, reconcile between their personal and professional lives, lower their stress levels and that can be partially achieved by working fewer hours a week. There are already pilot agreements that are working with a very significant level of success.

Our workplaces are experiencing various problems, with a lot of energy dedicated to address wear and tear, burnouts, depression, anxiety or autoimmune diseases. People whose lives revolve around work have seen the cost, maybe not in the short term, but in the toll on mental health in the medium term. Providing a legal reduction on the volume between time in and out of work can help many to find a correct balance.

Another option to reduce the weekly working hours that is starting to be put into practice in some companies is the four-day workweek. According to the Informe Infoempleo Adecco: Oferta y Demanda de Empleo en España, 67% of workers see a four-day job with the same salary as feasible, compared to 8% of employers. In the case of the self-employed, 61.5% consider that it is not possible to implement a four-day working day in their business. There are some Spanish companies who have taken the initiative and have made what many consider a utopia a reality. Adif, for example, is going to reduce the working hours of its 12,000 employees to 35 hours a week.

In June a report showed the need to lower the working day from 37.5 hours by 2026, with additional aims by 2032 to reach 32 hours. We are convinced that it is technically possible and there are examples that are already working: sick leave is reduced and productivity is increased. After the pandemic, we no longer want to devote 100% of our time to our work. A full life, reconciling family, friends, hobbies and work performance by optimising schedules without losing a second of our valuable time.

resized 2021-01 Paula Ruiz Torres - photo

The author

Paula Ruíz Torres

Vice-President of Eurocadres