Overview of the working time models - is the 40-hour week outdated?

The 40-hour week is the most common working time model in Germany . But is this model still up to date? You have probably heard of the 4-day week or the 6-hour working time model. In technical terms, such working time models are part of the New Work area. Countries like Spain, France, Sweden, the USA and companies like Toyota have already approached these new ideas of working hours. You can read exactly what these working time models are all about, which ones there are and their advantages and disadvantages in today's Mr Beam blog.

What are working time models?

Working time models are agreements between employees and employers that regulate working hours. This is usually regulated in the employment contract.

There are different models that seem to make more sense depending on the industry, profession and situation. During the Covid period, home office was a helpful model for many office workers. If you have children, it may be practical to always have the same working hours, namely exactly when the child is at school.

Why are regulations for working hours needed at all?

In production companies, for example, it is important that the machines are always running. The employees therefore have to take turns exactly to the minute so that there are no breaks. But it is also important to know when customers can reach a company or when all employees are available to arrange meetings.

What working time models are there?

Infographic working time models

There are different working time models. With some, you are more flexible in arranging your own working hours and work locations, while with others, the working hours and location are contractually regulated.

What exactly are flexible working hours?

With flexible working time models, the working time is not precisely defined. So you can decide freely and at short notice, daily or weekly, what time you start working, when you stop or on which days you do your work. There are no strict guidelines for doing the work of "9 to 5", but of course you should still keep an eye on your appointments and meetings.

Here you will find an overview of a few selected working time models:

1) full time

In 2021, 23.9 million people worked full-time in Germany, which is 53% of all employed persons. It is one of the most common working time models. You usually work 5 days a week, Monday to Friday, for 35-40 hours, i.e. 7-8 hours a day.

2) part-time

The part-time model is based on the full-time model, but includes fewer hours, mostly around 20-30 hours per week, spread over a variable number of days.

3) shift work

Employees take turns here to the minute. Eg in assembly line productions or in the hospital. This system makes sense when a continuous transition is required, for example because the machines cannot be switched off or patients have to be cared for permanently. There are 3 different shifts, early, late and night shifts. If you have worked several shifts in a row, you may have 3-4 days off at a time. However, it is very harmful to your own health and biorhythm and can cause sleep disorders, for example.

4) Flextime

With the flextime model, there is a core working time around which you can flexibly determine the remaining working hours. For example, if you have to be present at work from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can work the remaining 3 hours before and/or after. Usually there is also a flextime account, on which overtime and minus hours are booked, so that they can be compensated for up to a certain period of time.

5) Trust working time

The employer trusts that employees do their work independently. Trust-based working hours can also occur in combination with other working time models. This means that while it is contractually stipulated how many hours one has to work, implementation is not controlled. Employees should still record overtime for themselves.


6) annual working hours

Here, the total working hours to be worked within one year are specified in the employment contract. However, it is left open when exactly. This makes sense, for example, for seasonal businesses such as ski hotels. There is more to do in winter, which is why employees work more during this period and do not get any vacation. In the summer months they have longer breaks.

7) Lifetime work account

This concept allows you to put time or money into a savings account” over your working life, allowing you to retire earlier. For example, you give up part of your salary and have it paid out later in your pension. How much earlier you can retire as a result depends on the amount of time or money saved.

8) Home office

In the home office model, you work a certain part of your working hours from home. It is important to take various legal requirements into account and to equip the workplace at home with the necessary work utensils, such as a functioning WLAN. Working exclusively from home is called teleworking . Mobile work refers to the completely free choice of work location.

9) New Work models

New Work models offer a new and contemporary look at the construct of work. The world is constantly changing, which is why working conditions should also be adaptable. This can, for example, improve the work-life balance, health and productivity of working people. So why stick to an outdated 9 to 5 model when we can apply more appropriate models and take individual needs into account? The New Work models include, for example, the 4-day week, the 6-hour day, the 3-2-2 model or a model where you have every second Friday off.

New Work models

trust working hours

4-day week

The 4-day week is a working time model in which the number of hours and the workload usually remain the same. The working hours are only divided into 4 instead of 5 days per week. In addition to the weekend, you have another day off, usually on a Friday.

6 hour day

With a 6-hour day, the usual 8-hour day is shortened by 2 hours. The amount of work remains the same. This model comes from research showing that it is seldom possible to work 8 hours a day with high concentration. Many workers distract themselves with various things throughout the day, most notably checking social media and taking coffee breaks. These studies also show that with shorter working hours, productivity remains the same or even increases. Tower Paddle Boards saw a 40% increase in profits when they introduced the 5-hour day.

full time

3-2-2 model

This model can be combined with various working time models, because it only describes the division of the working week: For example, you work 3 days in the office, 2 days in the home office and have 2 days off per week. This allows the advantages of both places of work to be used: the exchange with colleagues on site and higher concentration phases at home.

Every 2nd Friday free

With this model, the working hours of a Friday are divided into 8 other days. So you work 9 hours instead of 8 for 8 days and can take a Friday off for it.

Why are there different working time models?

Different working time models are important because every industry, every company and every individual has different needs. It is important in a hospital that patients are cared for around the clock. A designer, on the other hand, needs creative freedom to create new ideas.

And like everything else, the different working time models have different advantages and disadvantages . Working 8 hours a day increases the risk of accidents and too much work can cause mental and physical illnesses. The 4-day week, on the other hand, can quickly reach its limits due to a shortage of skilled workers if there are simply not enough workers. In addition, this model requires financial support in the initial period and conversion phase. So this working time model cannot be seen as the solution for all companies.

Which working time model is the trend heading towards?

part time

However, the trend in working time models is moving in the direction of flexible working hours and New Work approaches.

Frithjof Bergmann, one of the leading researchers in the New Work field, said: We should not serve work, but work should serve us. The work we do should not consume all our strength and exhaust us. Instead, it should give us more strength and energy, it should support us in our development [...]”.

It is also important that the working conditions are adapted to the current zeitgeist and society. The 8-hour day has existed for over 100 years. So it comes from a time before computers and mobile phones. A good example of the need for adjustment is the pandemic. They forced us to make the big change " home office" and you could see that employees were still productive.

What are the benefits of flexible working time models?

new work

Flexible working time models and New Work approaches offer many possibilities and advantages:

  • Companies can react flexibly depending on the order situation.
  • They enable a better work-life balance: Haven't you ever wondered how you should actually attend doctor's appointments outside of typical working hours?
  • Working when you're most productive: Not everyone is a 9 to 5 guy, some have their peaks in the evening, others in the early morning.
  • They help recruit new workers.
  • They inspire trust: Employers show their employees that they trust their skills and their honesty.
  • They promote concentrated work and lead to less procrastination.
  • It contributes to greater employee satisfaction.

More design freedom and flexibility also increases motivation and leads to a more relaxed working atmosphere. And as you have already read in our blog post about the working atmosphere, this in turn has many positive effects, for example on productivity and company profits.

So it's not about making fun of employees, but about enabling them to live a better life, to develop their potential in the best possible way and at the same time to achieve a competitive advantage for the company . 

We at Mr Beam are also open to new and flexible working time models and handle working hours based on trust. The models are individually adapted depending on the life situation and everyone can - depending on the department and appointments - decide very freely when they want to work, because: The most important thing for us is to pursue our common goal with fun and passion, no matter what what time!

Working time models Mr Beam

Which models do you like best? Is the 40-hour week still relevant? And could you get your work done in less time? Please leave us a comment!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.