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Is a global recession looming, or not? Certainly at the start of 2023, the IMF believed much of the world would be facing one this year, although by the end of February, forecasts were being pushed back.

One thing is certain, a slowdown is underway and significant restructures (read: job losses) are announced on a weekly basis, as companies look to streamline and increase productivity, making the issue of the best approach to productivity particularly relevant.

Last year, the topic of a 4-day work week started to really gain attention, with the UK running what was billed as the “the biggest ever experiment based on this working model” for the last half of 2022, and the results are in

More than 60 companies, with over 2900 employees, took part, using the 100-80-100 model (100% of pay for 80% of hours maintaining 100% of productivity). 92% of the companies decided to continue with the trial and 18 having already adopted the model permanently by the end of the year.

The vast majority of companies reported that business performance and productivity was maintained, while 71% of employees reported lower levels of burnout and companies saw a 65% reduction in sick days, while also seeing a marked increase in job retention with the drop of 57% in the likelihood that an employee would quit.

So, one would think that moving to this model is a ‘no brainer’ and yet on the same day that the WEF report on the 4-day week experiment was released, Fortune published this: “Forget the 4-day workweek in South Korea: It’s proposing a maximum workweek of almost 70 hours.”

Essentially, the government proposes raising the maximum hours an employee can work from 52 to 69 hours a week, arguing that this allows for greater flexibility as workers could, for example, work longer hours one week in return for a shorter week following, or lengthier holidays during the year (despite the fact that only 40% of South Korean employees used up all their leave in 2020).

The fact is that, despite the layoffs, many businesses around the world are experiencing difficulties with finding staff. Bloomberg suggests that this might be due to new studies which show independent contractors account for some 15% of the labour force – more than double previous estimates. Perhaps, some speculate, this is people taking on second jobs (the “side hustle”) – something made easier with an official 4-day work week – which would also explain how consumer spend is still more resilient than expected.

So, in the face of shortages of workers in (some) key areas, are governments justified in allowing longer work weeks, or would this lead to exploitation and burn out – after all, it is supposed to be up to the individual as to whether or not to work those extra hours?

So, for businesses and employees alike, there are the issues of balancing the need for the right people in roles with the desire to better themselves economically, and a decent work-life balance.

One could make the argument for both 4-day weeks and 70-hour weeks, so perhaps the real issue is flexibility – allowing businesses and their staff to agree what works best for them to optimise availability and reward while avoiding burn-out.

What do you think?


Following a career spanning >50 years in the technology industry across three continents, with three decades in CxO roles leading significant, sustained growth in revenue and profitability, I now work with successful owner-led businesses to further enhance their growth, profitability and business value.

If you’d like to discuss your business strategy, trends, culture, goals, or anything else related to your business, book a confidential, free 30-minute call with me here.

I’d be delighted to talk with you.


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