In the Czech Republic, the 40-hour workweek – five days at eight hours apiece – has been the standard for 100 years since the foundation of Czechoslovakia back in 1918.
But might that soon be changing?
In some countries throughout the EU, a six-hour workday has become the new standard in many companies. In others, a four-day workweek is enjoyed by many employees.
In the Czech Republic, the average employee exceeds 40 hours per week. According to OECD statistics, Czech employees worked 40.1 hours per week on average in 2018 – 42.5 hours with breaks. That rates among the longest work weeks in Europe.
But many seek a change in the 100-year-old standard.
Among labor unions, an initiative entitled Konec dlouhé práce (End of the Long Work Week) has been making waves in recent years. Within the next four years, the goal is to shorten the workweek by up to 2.5 hours while maintaining the same level of income.
“It’s not a dream,” Josef Středula, chairman of the the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, told Novinky.cz.
“In 70 percent of companies with which we enter into collective agreements, the shortened working time of 37.5 hours [per week] is a reality.”
Not all are in favor of (officially) reduced working hours, however. While the goal of unions is to decrease working hours while maintaining wages, a study produced by Raiffeisenbank, reported in Novinky.cz, suggests that this may not be feasible.
According to the study, a reduction in working hours without an associated increase in productivity would create a need to hire more employees. The additional costs would lead to a reduction in salaries, and could create a competitive disadvantage against companies in other countries.
Raiffeisenbank’s analysis does promote a number of benefits to shorter working hours, which includes a reduction in stress, the potential for fewer workplace accidents, and the possibility of employing those who might otherwise have difficulty committing to a 40-hour workweek.
Ultimately, the study concludes that the Union’s goal of a 37.5-hour workweek is very likely to be met in the near future. Reduced working hours are a global trend sparked by advancements in technology, and shorter and more flexible hours are increasingly appealing benefits for many employees.