Four-day working week “could be way of retaining talent”

Pilot-project is entering its second phase

Portugal’s secretary of state for labour said on Friday that the four-day working week pilot-project may represent an incentive to retain workers in Portugal.

Speaking to reporters in Lisbon after the presentation assessing the first phase of the programme, Miguel Fontes pointed out that this project addresses “an absolutely central issue”, which is the creation of working environments where people feel more valued, more recognised and where they can better reconcile their professional lives with their personal and family lives.

“This is a demand today, namely from younger workers, who have a very clear demand of wanting to work in a different way than we did in the past and this is fundamental to attract talent, to retain it, whether at the country level or at the level of organisations”, said the secretary of state.

According to Miguel Fontes, the programme “is not a whim” or a “minor issue”, but important for the promotion of new forms of work organisation that motivate and commit workers.

Noting that Portugal is facing a demographic problem, the secretary of state pointed out that it is necessary to bring people who want to come and work in Portugal.

Miguel Fontes believes that the implementation of the pilot project, which will move into a second phase with 46 of the 99 companies initially interested, establishes conditions that can increase productivity.

“The only thing that I don’t think is very wise is that we have this thought that first we are going to increase productivity, first we are going to grow, and then we are going to think about it. No, because these are conditions to increase productivity,” he said.

“If we reduce absenteeism, if we have employees in the companies and workers who are more motivated, more committed, who share more of the purpose, with clear objectives, with new forms of work organisation, surely the results will be different“, he insisted.

Miguel Fontes recalled the period when he was executive director of Startup Lisboa, where he got “the notion of what this issue of competing for talent is”, having highlighted that these types of companies are not afraid of innovation and taking risks.

“Imagine what it is for a startup, when it is just beginning, that obviously has great difficulty in capturing that talent through the usual resources, to be able to do it in competition with a large company, with a ‘big corporation’, with a large company. You obviously can’t pay the same salary, you obviously can’t compete with the same instruments and weapons, but the main reason why you can compete is precisely because of your purpose, your sense of construction, your sense of project”, he explained.

One of the main reasons cited by around 10% of the companies that abandoned the pilot-project relates to the need for investment, and, according to the secretary of state, the government does not foresee the creation of support lines for this transition – neither during the programme, nor after, in the event of good productivity indicators.

During the project, the government did not want to fund the companies “because it would be a variable that would distort the result of the study itself” and that could discredit it, while in a post-project condition, “if the results turn out to be positive”, this proves that the change to the way of working “is possible without funding”.

“It would be unreasonable for us to go backwards,” he pointed out, adding that public resources are scarce and “should be allocated to what is essential”.

If, on the other hand, the results are less positive, Miguel Fontes called for there to be no fear of innovating, even if innovation brings with it failure.

“It wouldn’t cost so much if for once we were able to be the ones to lead and then they would say like this, ‘today there is a situation like in Europe and Portugal was at the forefront, it was one of the first to do it’. “So we don’t have to be afraid, we have to have the courage to move forward,” he said.

Source: LUSA

Portugal Resident