2021.05.16 10:00

Less work, more life? Lithuania debates four-day working week

Irma Janauskaitė, Vesta Tizenhauzienė, Jūratė Anilionytė, LRT TV, LRT.lt2021.05.16 10:00

As discussions about shortening the working week take hold in Lithuania, firms in different fields take diverging stances. Among workers themselves, however, the idea is gaining in popularity, according to trade unions.

Social democratic MPs have proposed a 4-day working week scheme to initially be implemented for professions that work under huge psychological stress, such as medics and social workers.

But some businesses have been experimenting on their own. Lašų duona, a bakery based in Rokiškis, implemented the four-day working week two years ago. Their employees work for eight hours a day, four days a week, with no decrease in pay.

The company was looking for a way to increase efficiency, while also ensuring that their employees had more free time.

“We sat down and gave it a thought, until we decided to review our daily processes. We came to a conclusion that it would be difficult to make workdays shorter, especially in the private sector. [...] We chose, in the end, to free up Fridays and extend the weekend.,” says Iveta Aukštuolienė, head of Lašų duona.

Businesses in some other fields, however, are sceptical about shortening the working week.

“My colleagues performing audits are already barely making it during the regular working hours. [...] Work is also quite intense for accountants,” says Šarūnas Brazdžius, head of Financial and Business Advisory at Grant Thornton Baltic.

“The situation is similar for those in consulting, we want to be as close to our clients as possible, so right now it is difficult to imagine a four-day working week,” he adds.

Five years ago, only about one in ten workers said they favoured shortening the working week, while one in four disapproved of it.

Today, moods may be different, say trade unions. People need more time to rest after work that seems to be getting more and more intense.

“There is no such sector that wouldn’t be able to work like that [shorter hours],” says Inga Ruginienė, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation. “Even research shows that an employee with more time to rest is more efficient, can complete more tasks.”

Psychologist Visvaldas Legkauskas believes that longer weekends would even help the economy.

“Shorter working week leads to longer life expectancy. It increases not only because we've developed antibiotics and made medical advances that can extend one’s life. Work is one of the key sources of stress. When there is less workload, there is less stress, there is a chance for a person to rest, which increases their lifespan,” says Legkauskas. “In the end, we will find out that it is good for the economy, as people have more time to spend money.”

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