Week in 4 days: instructions to follow in the public service


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Gabriel Attal put the subject on the table during his general policy declaration, which had the effect of a small bombshell. “As Prime Minister, I ask all of my ministers to experiment [la semaine en 4 jours] in their central and decentralized administrations. » Which represents 655,000 civil servants.

As soon as the surprise passed, attention focused on the expression “in 4 days”. Our ears were rather accustomed to hearing “4-day week.” » And the difference is far from being anecdotal: the 4-day week consists of a compression of the weekly working time previously spread over 5 days, into 4 days. In other words, no reduction in working hours. For a civil servant working, for example, 36 hours per week, or 7 hours 12 minutes over five days, this will translate into days of 9 hours, over 4 days.

Gabriel Attal had tested the 4-day week in his Ministry of Public Accounts. He is not the only one. Local authorities and public institutions have also tested it on their side. It is precisely these that Profil Public, a recruitment platform dedicated to the public sector, interviewed to find out how their experiment went. The study that “HR Consultant UK” unveils is a summary of best practices which will help communities and civil servants tempted by the experience to deploy it in their administration.

The expected benefits of the week in 4 days

Before implementing it, what were the objectives of the 4-day week for the 10 administrations that experimented with it? The expectations were multiple: to promote more work/life balance, strengthen HR attractiveness, build employee loyalty, increase productivity and even reduce absenteeism.

“The 4-day week is a real lever of attractiveness in terms of recruitment, assures Frédéryque Cottard, general administration, HR and legal manager within the Terroir de Caux Community of Communes. Although we cannot offer better salaries, we stand out by offering greater flexibility and quality of life at work. »

Key success factors

And whether in Grenoble Métropole Alpes, the city of Neuilly-sur-Marne, the metropolis of Lyon, the Hauts-de-London Region or the National Old Age Insurance Fund, each has identified the essential elements for the success of the project . Among them, it seems imperative to launch a prior consultation with employees eligible for the 4-day week as well as raising awareness of the issues (personal work organization, management of mental workload, maintaining social ties, etc.).

Also, there is no question of setting up a rigid system which could be unsuitable for certain services. The managers interviewed recommend defining a flexible and sufficiently permissive framework so that department heads can make their own adjustments.

Difficulties to take into account

Once installed, the 4-day week presented difficulties. If one of the initial objectives was to achieve a better work/life balance, compacting five days into four lengthens the days, sometimes in a problematic way. “Coming home late after work, when you have children, is difficult to organize. This is not compatible with school schedules”underlines Anne-Sophie Rousseau, deputy director of Urssaf Picardie, one of the administrations participating in the experiment.

Beyond the imperatives linked to personal life, excessively busy working days do not always contribute to the well-being of civil servants. Because if the 9 hours per week on weekdays in 4 days is an average, the days can go beyond for more days of rest. But for some, this would be counterproductive. “It seems risky to us to exceed 36 and a half hours of work per week”worry the HR managers of the Grand Lieu Communauté, who rather recommend in this case a week not of 4 days but of 4 and a half days, to make the days lighter.

Right to go back for agents

Another difficulty for the public service: ensuring continuity of service. For this, the Public Profile study went to collect feedback from a community, this time Icelandic. “We have shortened break times and times with low added value. Meetings are, for example, limited to 30 minutes, which forces us to get to the point”says the HR director of Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital which rolled out the week in 4 and a half days.

To convince cautious administrations to initiate such an upheaval, Profil Public recommends offering the 4-day week on a voluntary basis and establishing a right to go back. “Employees must be able to stop a pace that no longer suits them”, writes the author. And the HR manager of the Communauté de communes Terroir de Caux concluded: “Don’t be afraid to take the plunge. The 4-day week is a win-win system with no budgetary impact for the community. »


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