“How an international IT company achieves the 4-day week without a pay cut” was the headline last Saturday in the Spanish online newspaper El Confidencial. The article highlights the 4-day week and what sets CIB, the IT company referenced in the title, apart from many Spanish companies in this regard
Spain and the 4-day week
The model of the 4-day week is currently a much-discussed topic in Spain. At the beginning of the year, the government approved a proposal by the Más País party to reduce the working hours of employees to 32 hours per week in a pilot project in 200 companies with financial support from the state. For the employees, however, this reduction in working hours is at the same time linked to a reduction in their salaries, thus comparable to part-time employment in Germany. The reaction of the employees to the introduction of the new working time model is correspondingly restrained. The majority of Telefónica employees, for example, reject the management’s proposal, as it would entail a reduction of their salaries and social security contributions by about 16 %. This means that the company’s target of getting 10% of employees to sign up to the pilot project has not been met. The fashion chain Desigual seems to have stumbled over the same hurdle, also offering its employees the 4-day week and taking over part of the salary shortfall, so that salaries are ultimately reduced by 6.5 %.
What makes CIB different?
While other companies are still looking for solutions for the new working time model, the CIB Group has already successfully introduced a 4-day week in Germany and Spain. A crucial aspect for the successful implementation is the unchanged retention of salaries, as presented in the article:
“This is the case with CIB, an international information technology software company specialising in business process optimisation. Founded in 1989, the company employs 170 people at its headquarters in Munich and in its branches in Austria and Spain. In Spain, CIB has offices on the Canary Islands and in Valencia. For almost four weeks, all full-time employees in the group have been working four days a week, with their salaries and holiday entitlements remaining unchanged.”
From 5 to 4 days, from 40 to 36 hours
The model CIB has chosen is a 9-hour day from Monday to Thursday. The weekly working time is therefore 36 hours in total. “You could say that we have been ‘given’ four hours a week,” explains Cristina Silvera Roig, the HR manager of the Spanish subsidiary CIB labs S.L..
“The key”, she says, “lies in the possibility of freeing ourselves from time-consuming routine tasks”, and emphasises that CIB, as a pioneer in the field of BPM with Artificial Intelligence, sees itself here in the privileged situation of achieving an increase in productivity by using its own innovative solutions in the field of digitalization and thus gaining free time. “Our employees will not have to work faster to compensate for the loss of time,” Silvera adds and emphasises: “The goal is to put one’s own work processes to the test, to question routine work and to replace it with new, efficient work processes.”
Work more efficiently, not faster
A guideline that has also prevailed in the design of the new working week. “We deliberately chose Friday as a fixed day off, which precludes a rotation system in most teams,” says Silvera. “By synchronising working hours, we avoid time-consuming delegation of tasks, full email inboxes and rescheduling of appointments, thus increasing the recovery effect that the extra day off gives us.”
The pilot project will be put to the test for a period of six months, during which time it will also be scientifically monitored by occupational and industrial psychologists.
Less is more
The idea “Less is more” came from the Managing Director and owner of the CIB Group, Ulrich Brandner, who surprised the employees in July 2021 with his proposal to introduce a 4-day week at CIB. After the first reactions of the employees were extremely positive, August was used to clarify detailed questions and to make the idea a reality in the short term.
“The past 1.5 years, with an extremely high proportion of mobile working, have shown us once again that we can trust our employees,” Brandner continues and adds: “The 4-day week is also based on trust: we are sure that our employees will gain more time for personal matters with a better work-life balance and thus start the new week with a clear head, satisfied and motivated. In this way, our 36 hours in four days can become real ‘quality hours’ in which we continue to bring our projects successfully to the finish line with fun and concentration.”
What do the customers say?
“How do our customers react?”, reports Brandner, were the most frequent concerns raised by employees in connection with the 4-day week. “In fact, however, we were able to ascertain that our customers received the idea very positively and that some would like to have a similar working time model themselves. Through good organisation, we have ensured that our customers can of course also reach a contact person on Fridays, should this be necessary.”
CIB garantiert den Kunden auch am Freitag weiterhin eineCIB guarantees customers continued availability on Fridays and sets up emergency staffing for this purpose. To ensure that employees who work on Fridays also benefit from the advantages of the 4-day week, the day off in these teams is divided between Monday and Friday.
4-day week as a permanent working time model?
The employees of the CIB Group had the choice to opt for the 4-day week with reduced hours and the same salary or to stick to the previous working time model. In both Spain and Germany, all full-time employees decided to accept the offer and to gain their personal experience with it during the 6-month test period.
At the end of the first test month, CIB’s interim conclusion is that all employees are motivated to make their contribution to making the idea of the 4-day week a success and establishing it permanently at CIB.
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