More and more workers find a four-day week appealing. However, scepticism among employers exists in many areas. Andreas Hohnke, Managing Director of Cargo Truck Direct, and Volker Tschirch, CEO of AGA Unternehmensverband, a leading employers’ association in northern Germany, explain their points of view, including the accompanying issues of lack of skilled workers and quality of life.
Andreas Hohnke: Yes, it certainly has a future as a way for companies to position themselves better when competing for skilled workers and for retaining their top performers. The four-day week is not the holy grail, though. It can be a powerful tool and, used correctly, it can attract skilled workers.
Volker Tschirch: The four-day week is far from being a mass phenomenon. There’s a shortage of thousands of workers in logistics. For HGV drivers alone, the shortage is 70,000. The age structure – our drivers are on average older than in other occupational groups – means that this gap is growing by 20,000 people a year. Our companies demand flexibility, and young professionals also expect this from their employers. This doesn’t mean necessarily that everyone wants to reduce their working hours or have a four-day week. It’s more about people having the free-dom to choose how they organise their work. In many cases today, this is already happening.
LOGISTICS PILOT: What benefits can you see in this working model?
Andreas Hohnke: It’s definitely an advantage for employees, as they have more free time and more time to recharge, giving the employer an employee who’s more rested. In an industrialised country like Germany, which is constantly developing, just throwing more money at people doesn’t always work. People need something else, and you can already see that when you look at the success of other countries. This is why we have decided to give something back to our employees – the most important thing we have in life: time. In addition, the four-day week is also a management tool in terms of productivity and staff selection.
Volker Tschirch: Where highly specialised professionals are desperately sought, but who don’t want to work full-time, the offer of a four-day week or even less can prove successful – here, I’m thinking of programmers, other IT specialists or engineers. A blanket four-day week isn’t a model that would work for logistics. The industry runs like a clock, so if all employees take their day off on, say, Monday or Friday, goods will be missing in the shops or in production, for example, causing the system to break down.
LOGISTICS PILOT: For you, do the positive aspects of a four-day week outweigh the negative, or vice versa?
Andreas Hohnke: We haven’t felt any adverse effects so far, so the positive aspects do outweigh the negative. We had some negative effects during the test phase, though – we had initially limited the staff’s days off to Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, because Thursdays and Fridays are the busiest days. However, this led to more stress on the other three days because too many people were absent at once. We counteracted this by extending the whole thing from Monday to Friday. The four-day week only works if everyone pulls together and works as a team.
“Just throwing more money at people doesn’t work any more.”
Andreas Hohnke is Managing Director of Cargo Truck Direct, an owner-managed logistics company based in Düsseldorf. At the beginning of 2023, he started an eight-week test phase with the four-day week in his company and introduced it permanently starting 1 April.