Over six months, the Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) will implement the pilot project of the four-day workweek, becoming the first R&D institution in Portugal to join the initiative by the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security. The trial period begins with employees from one of the Institution’s 13 R&D centres.

“As a Research and Development Institute, we aim to be the first to accept this challenge and test new methodologies of work organisation”, said Luís Seca, member of the Executive Board, stressing that it’s not possible to “keep perceiving workdays the same way we did 20 or 30 years ago. There are new challenges – mostly imposed the new generation of professionals in the labour market – that we must address, namely concerning flexibility; we must reconcile professional satisfaction with personal and family life”.

During the second half of 2023, the members of INESC TEC Centre for Telecommunications and Multimedia (CTM) will adopt new work methods, distributed over a four-day workweek. Luís Seca stated that the key to success will be planning: “I believe that we can maintain or even increase productivity by structuring and organising schedules differently, optimising the duration of meetings, prioritising tasks and setting goals regularly and clearly”.

Moreover, Luís Seca stated that the challenge goes far beyond the reduction of working hours, as he believes that “we are facing changes in the way society perceives work”. “The balance between the personal and professional lives of employees is something we aim to explore, and this is another way of doing it”, he mentioned.

INESC TEC currently operates on a hybrid and flexible schedule, but “we believe we can go further. One of our particularities is a highly creative work, which benefits greatly from the adoption of rest periods, so that people can carry out other personal activities. Hence, we believe that the four-day workweek will have a quite positive impact on our community, allowing us to increase our ability to retain our talented employees”, claimed Luís Seca.

The “Four-Day Workweek Pilot Program” starts in June and will lead to a reduction in the number of weekly hours, without any salary reduction or rights’ loss. The program’s working group is coordinated by Pedro Gomes, who says that “innovation is the engine of economic growth”. “We know that the relationship between discovering new ideas and working schedules is far from linear”, he claimed, also emphasising that “the emblematic discoveries of Archimedes or Newton did not occur at the desk”.

Pedro Gomes believes that “just like in technology, the labour domain also requires innovation; so, it’s important to test new working methods. INESC TEC, in addition to being one of the reference institutions in scientific research and technological development in our country, is also a pioneer in the search for a better way of working, in the 21st century. It is a privilege to join this project”, he said.

According to the Secretary of State for Labour, Miguel Fontes, “this pilot project is the result of a commitment by the Government to study new ways of managing and balancing working hours, including the pertinence of experiences like the four-day workweek in different sectors. Regarding the workers, we will measure the effects on well-being, quality of life, mental and physical health, as well as their level of commitment to the company, job satisfaction and intention to remain in the organisation. As to the companies, they will focus on productivity, competitiveness, intermediate costs, and profits”.

With the adoption of the Decent Work Agenda, this study is vital do develop of one of the main pillars of said Agenda: the balance between professional, personal and family life.