Dell trials 4-day workweek in Netherlands as massive UK pilot starts

Hopes to taps into pool of tech workers who aren't keen to be tied down for 40 hours per week

Dell employees in the Netherlands will be able to work four days a week from this month, a director of Dell Technologies Netherlands has confirmed to The Register.

The news comes just weeks before what is touted to be the biggest ever 4-day working week trial begins in the UK.

Isabel Moll, newly appointed vice president and general manager at Dell Netherlands, told us the part-time pilot has already been rolled out by the Dutch and Argentinian operations.

"On April 1 we welcomed our first starter, and we're currently in the late phases of the interviewing process with [another]. We're hoping to welcome many other candidates in the near future, once the word spreads more and more."

She noted that the scheme was also open to existing employees, with pay corresponding to hours worked.

Speaking to local financial news daily Financieele Dagblad, Dell GM Moll described the April Argentinian and Dutch pilot as addressing both the issues of scarcity in the labor market and a way to bring in a more diverse group, including women and younger people, who are no longer interested in working until "they drop" or have other obligations.

She said such people often end up leaving the sector, to its detriment, or use their technical skills in other sectors which have less intensive hours, telling the paper: "Working harder won't pay off, because the pond is empty..."

As for scarcity in the market, the Netherlands has a large pool of part-timers to draw from. According to data from The World Bank, the part-time workforce in the Netherlands is over 55 percent, with Dell noting this went up to 60 percent for women in the Dutch labor force. This compares to 43 percent in Germany, 41 percent in the UK, and just 28 percent in the United States, although these figures are not broken down into business sectors. For the Netherlands, then, it's an opportunity to make hires from a group it wouldn't usually have access to when trying to fill a five-day-a-week role.

Moll told us she knows from her network in the IT world that other American tech companies who have bases in the country, including Microsoft, are watching the pilot closely.

She told The Register via email: "Other big American tech companies in the Netherlands did not adjust their KPIs to the amount of worked hours up until now and are looking at our pilot with warm interest."

The US is one of the top 10 countries for most overtime worked, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Latest figures from the US bureau of labor say that around 33 percent of developers and IT professionals work overtime, clocking an average of 7.4 hours extra (declared) per week.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, for a period of six months stretching from June to December this year, 3,000 workers across 60 companies will work for four days instead of five with no loss of pay, among them workers from Canon's UK arm.

According to the Guardian, the UK trial is being run by Autonomy (the British think tank, not the software company controversially acquired by HP), Boston College in the US, the British universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the campaign groups 4 Day Week Global, and 4 Day Week UK.

Crucially, Dell Netherlands' four-day work week trial will avoid cramming five days' worth of work into the four days, with Moll stating: "For now we're piloting four days a week of eight hours. However, it's a pilot, so three days of eight hours will definitely also be an option in the future."

Other working hours experiments have condensed five working days' worth of hours into four days using the so-called "4×10 schedule," (four 10-hour shifts) tested by Atlassian, among others.

According to one of the broader studies of the past few years, performed from 2015 to 2019 in Iceland, productivity gains made up for fewer working hours [PDF], although it is worth noting that test subjects still worked more than four days a week. Some 2,500 people took part in the study, which again was backed by Autonomy along with Icelandic NGO Alda. In the study, the working week was reduced from 40 hours to 35 or 36 hours and 40-hour pay levels were maintained. Productivity either stayed the same or improved, the research found.

Critics say that the idea is expensive to implement, and that hand-offs between shift workers can affect business continuity, with clients of four-day workers potentially impacted as they switch between staffers and teams. On the question of expenditure, the "cost component" is "actually a bit more complex and nuanced than just saying it's a 20 percent saving," Dell's Moll told us.

Retaining and attracting new staff

Separate from the working hours issue is the question of in-person, hybrid, and fully remote work, which – similar to a reduction in working hours – is being seen by some as an antidote to the Great Resignation. Software companies appear to be adjusting their product sets for a post-pandemic world where people work from both their homes and the office.

Microsoft and Google have continued to push productivity software services via cloud, with Redmond promising something called "Windows 365 Offline."

Microsoft, incidentally, has productivity software as part of its Workplace Analytics platform called Week in the Life that discerns levels of collaboration among workers, among other things. It looks at aspects like "meeting hours" and "email hours" as well as "after-hours collaboration hours" – although it notes that the intended purpose of monitoring "after-hours activity" is to "help identify employees who are at risk of getting overworked or have an unsustainable workload."

Meanwhile, the popularity of remote tools like VMware's Horizon virtualization platform is making them a target for opportunistic attackers.

Even as countries loosen COVID restrictions, HP has just spent $3.3 billion on office telco firm Poly, seen by many as a bet on the future of remote and hybrid work as the tech will help enterprises turn their meeting rooms into hybrid-capable spaces.

The fact that business is selling into the trend doesn't mean that executives have fully bought into the idea, though. A 31-country, 31,000-person survey last month showed a clear disconnect between the needs of managers and employees, with half of the leaders in IT roles reckoning their company needed full-time in-person staffers in the coming year while over half of the staffers already performing "hybrid" work (some in-office, some WFH) were actually considering a shift to fully remote work.

Dell said in August 2020 it anticipated 60 percent of its 160,000-strong workforce would not return to an office permanently after the pandemic ends.

Reg readers seem to feel that being given the ability to work from home is a good motivator, with most saying they preferred two days in the office, three at home. Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri, meanwhile, is in the other camp, and has said that "one or two days is a good amount" of "family time" and "perhaps five days is too much." We wonder why he would say that.

While a shorter working week and hybrid work are both creative ideas to address chronic staff shortages and issues with staff retention, we have to mention there's another method of persuasion: a bit of a salary top-up. What's your biggest motivator? More free time to enjoy what's left of your life; working in pajamas with a 30-second commute; or cold hard cash? Have your say in the comments below. ®

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022