Shortened Workdays: The New Paradigm

The 5-day, 40-hour workweek has been a longstanding norm. Interestingly, Henry Ford introduced it in the U.S. back in 1926, reducing working hours without changing compensation. Fast forward 56 years to 1982, Spain adopted the same 40-hour workweek. Now, it’s been 41 years since the last adjustment to maximum work hours in the country. Typically, this schedule involves split shifts, from 9 am to 1/2 pm and from 2/3 pm to 6 pm, allowing for a one or two-hour break in between. But the shortened workday has been gradually gaining ground. A few years ago, the percentage of people working with this schedule was 25%. According to data from the National Survey on Working Conditions by the National Institute of Statistics of Spain, in 2019, it represented 37.4%.

What’s a shortened workday?

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about a 4-day workweek, but that’s not the only option out there. A shortened or intensive workday typically lets employees tackle their tasks in one go, so they can start and finish work earlier than usual. The usual hours for this are from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. Even though work is continuous, it’s important to remember that breaks are required by law – at least 15 minutes for every 6 hours worked.

Shortened workdays come in different flavors, often kicking in on Fridays and during the summer months, typically from June to September, with August standing out. In many agreements, this schedule syncs up with the school calendar, making it easier for work-life balance.


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What are the benefits of a shortened workday?

Makes it easier to balance work and life

Work-life balance represents a delicate equilibrium between work responsibilities, personal tasks, and family activities. One of the most common misunderstandings in the workplace is thinking that work-life balance only benefits those with dependents. The truth is, everyone deserves this balance. This is where the shortened workday shines as a major perk: giving more time for personal interests and professional growth. In fact, a study by Conecta consultancy found that 67% of Spanish workers use the  shortened workday to invest in professional training.

More motivation and productivity

According to a survey by the human resources company Randstad, 66% of workers believe that the shortened workday boosts productivity. This is because spending less time in the office and having more free time for personal activities makes them feel better, leading to increased motivation and productivity.

Cristina Gutiérrez Campos, career coach, points out that the shortened workday brings about “a boost of happiness” for workers, leading to better professional performance. “Studies suggest that being happier at work increases productivity by more than 80%. It’s because people start their day with a more positive outlook and plan their time better to finish work and later balance it with family and friends.”


A decline in regular absences

According to a report by Asepeyo on work schedules and skipping work, the way we organize our work hours is closely related to how often people miss work. Introducing a shorter and more flexible workday has shown to significantly reduce absenteeism in companies. This change allows employees to have a more condensed and adaptable schedule, promoting a healthy balance between work and personal life. This flexibility helps decrease stress and fatigue, common factors associated with missing work.

Improves employer branding

The image that employees project for a company is as important as the quality of its products and services. Happy employees are synonymous with good branding, and working conditions that include flexible hours or shortened workdays have been proven to increase talent retention and attraction.


In short, the shortened workday emerges as an excellent alternative for balancing work and personal life, boosting employee motivation and productivity, enhancing the work environment, and reducing absenteeism.

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