Danish municipality introduces four-day working week

Odsherred Municipality is to become the first local authority in Denmark to implement a four-day working week.

Danish municipality introduces four-day working week
File photo: Claus Bech Andersen/Ritzau Scanpix

The northwest Zealand municipality’s 300-strong staff is to be given Fridays off, beginning this week, its HR head of department Kirsten Lund Markvardsen said.

A three-year trial of various new initiatives at the local council is the basis for the shorter working week.

Another change brought about by the trial will enable local residents to contact the municipality outside of traditional opening hours on working days.

“Members of the public will be able to call earlier and later in the day in return for us being closed on Friday,” Markvardsen said.

“That should enable us to provide better municipal service whilst giving our staff an extra day off,” she added.

The four extended working days will amount to a 35-hour working week for staff. A typical working week in Denmark is around 37.5 hours.

READ ALSO: Denmark tops EU survey on work-life balance

Staff timetables will be individual, but each week is likely to contain at least one long working day. Opening hours will be between 7am and 7pm.

Civil servants employed at the municipality are enthusiastic about the new work timetable, according to Søren Kühnrich, an employee representative for one of the staff sections affected by the changes.

“We are looking forward to getting started with the trial four-day week,” Kühnrich said.

“We’ve had a good dialogue with the municipality about the arrangement, which is a break with the conventional way of conceiving a working week,” he added.

Odsherred’s City Council says it supports the trial arrangement. 

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Danish municipality gives its staff three-day weekends

For just over a year, Odsherred Municipality has operated under a trial programme which gives 300 civil servants employed by the authority Fridays off work.

Danish municipality gives its staff three-day weekends
File photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

In return for the three-day weekend, staff at the northwest Zealand municipality must work the standard 37-hour week through Monday-Thursday.

The trial has worked so well that Odsherred is considering expanding it to municipal-run childcare facilities, DR Sjælland reports.

“We work very much based on when our residents need us,” Eva Haupt-Jørgensen, a union representative for public servants in Odsherred, said to DR.

The municipality has used a model which offers residents greater flexibility over when they can book appointments with staff, with more evening availability.

Evening working can be made to fit with employees’ home lives, Haupt-Jørgensen said.

“We can still go to gymnastics on a Thursday afternoon if that’s what we do. We just regulate and are here (at work) at other times,” she said.

The system makes it easier for residents to get in touch with the authorities outside of their own working hours, she noted.

“Now, residents can call and speak to a member of staff from 7:30am until 6pm,” mayor Thomas Adelskov told DR.

Although rolling out the concept to childcare facilities would mean a slightly different form, the idea could also be beneficial in that sector, he said.

“It’s clear that we can’t close childcare one day a week. But good models could be found whereby some people have Friday off, some have Monday off, and there are three continuous (working) days,” he said.

The trial is in place for three years for municipal administrative staff.

READ ALSO: Denmark tops EU survey on work-life balance