International Labour Day – Should focus be on how much we work or how we work?

Zsuzsanna Ziegler (2024)

1st of May is International Labour Day. This is not just a celebration of the rights won by employees, but a day to march for more rights. It is a great opportunity to discuss what should be done to improve the quality of work and employee satisfaction. In today’s world, flexibility plays an increasingly important role in our life. Due to the development of technology, it is important to be able to adapt to changes. And while previous generations often spent a lifetime working for the same employer, today it is natural for the younger employees to change their jobs more frequently.

We still measure work in working hours, but is this the best way to think about work if we the goal is efficiency and better work-life balance? Longer working hours do not necessarily mean more work is done. It can easily lead to longer coffee breaks, chatting with the co-workers etc. Long hours also have a negative impact on the work-life balance and employees’ overall well-being.[1] This is the reason why a lot of companies in different countries are experimenting with a four-day work week. The basic idea is: if we let employees rest more then they will be more focused during working hours and the same amount of work can be done in less time. In this concept the tasks completed are more important for the employer than the number of working hours. This seems like a win-win situation: the employee gets more time to rest, and the employer gets the same job done in less time.

England has been the country trying out the four-day work week trial on the largest scale. For 6 months of 2022, 61 organizations took part in the trial. Half of them decided to keep the policy permanently. The majority of the CEO’s and project managers said that it was a positive change for their organization. In addition, the employee’s mental health and work-life balance improved.[2] Therefore, this trial was a success.

Norway’s first pilot study of a four- day work week will take place later this year as part of 4 Day Week Global []. It will last for 6 months, and researchers will follow and document the effects on the employees and organizations.[3]

Although most employees would welcome a four-day work week, there are also disadvantages that must be considered. For example, reducing working hours can lead to more intense workload and more stress.[4] It is also not applicable for all industries.[5] Experts also suggest that the trial period is too short, and should be at least one year. [6]

An exhausted, burnt-out employee cannot be productive. Therefore, it is important to listen to the employees’ experiences. Flexibility can be a great investment for the employers, not only to increase the happiness of the employees, but it also to make the work process more effective. While we appreciate the rights that employees already achieved, we should always move forward and try to create the best possible working conditions. Happy employees also benefit the employers.


Zsuzsanna Ziegler is a Hungarian law student currently spending a semester at the University of Bergen as Erasmus program exchange student. In her Master thesis she researches the flexibility in labor law and the four-day work week. This post reflects part of her research.

Photo: Freepik