Turkey meets four-day work week with Aksa’s landmark decision

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A year after a Turkish acrylic fiber producer initiated a trial of a four-day work week for 200 white-collar workers, the company became the nation’s first to adapt the change for good — without altering employees’ salaries or benefits.

Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii AS tested the shorter work week in an effort to boost operational efficiency and promote work-life balance. Located in Yalova, just outside of Turkey’s  commercial hub of Istanbul, the company has a workforce of 1,200 people, including blue-collar workers. Laborers, who are compensated on an hourly basis and receive overtime pay, aren’t included in shorter work week.

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In a written response to questions from Bloomberg, Cengiz Tas, CEO of Aksa Akrilik, stated that the four-day work week received strong support from employees, fostering increased collaboration and team spirit within the company. The participation rate in the practice of working four days a week reached 94%.

Aksa is the first major company in Turkey to run these trials, but other groups have been experimenting with them across the globe in recent years. Billionaire Steve Cohen last week said he expects that more businesses will move to a four-day work week.

Research in the UK last year found that most companies participating in a trial weren’t returning to the five-day standard. Meanwhile, German companies have started testing a short work week to fight a labor crisis. A six-month program that began Feb. 1 will grant a day off every week for  hundreds of employees while keeping them on full pay with about 45 companies participating.

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In a survey conducted with Aksa employees after the pilot study period, the company found that the four-day work week supported employee engagement, productivity, motivation and work-life balance by more than 85%. Job applications also rose “significantly,” according to the CEO.

“The motivation of my colleagues and my team has clearly increased,” said Asli Ertan, R&D and sustainability group manager at the company.

Not every company has had success with the shorter work week. Magyar Telekom Nyrt. the Hungarian unit of Deutsche Telekom AG, returned to a standard work schedule earlier this year after a four-day work week didn’t meet expectations in a pilot.

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And despite the positive outcome at Aksa, there were challenges during implementation.

Initially, Tuesday and Thursday were designated as days off. However, due to disruptions in the fixed-day system, the company decided to determine off days more flexibly. Certain employees also expressed a preference for using flexible days by dividing them into hours instead of taking a full day off. In response to these requests, Aksa started incorporating partial-day breaks as part of the four-day work week.

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