The 4-Day Workweek: Is It a Viable Option in America?
The concept of a 4-day workweek continues to garner buzz after countries like Iceland, New Zealand, and Sweden provided valuable insights into its potential benefits from early trials from 2015-2018. Continued research and additional trials in these and other countries showcase productivity, profitability, and employee satisfaction improvements. Will the 4-day workweek become a reality in America?
With a focus on increased productivity during work hours, the 4-day workweek can lead to better client, customer, and colleague experiences. Studies show that this alternative work model encourages employees to develop habits of focus and efficiency, which can result in higher-quality work and improved customer satisfaction. Reducing work hours can create a healthier work environment and a more competitive business landscape.
The 4-day Workweek Tested across the U.S.
In June 2022, Newsweek published a list of 31 U.S. companies that had made the 32-hour work week a permanent option for their staff.
In 2022, California proposed AB 2932, a bill that got attention but did not move forward for consideration. However, the bill, which included one and one-half times the minimum overtime pay rates for employees working more than 32 hours, is considered one that may be reintroduced, possibly this year.
Notable leaders in implementing new 4-Day workweek policies include:
- Buffer is a software company with employees in 20 countries. They claimed 91% of employees reported being happier and more productive, and 84% of the team completed all work in four days instead of five.
- San Francisco-based tech company Bolt implemented the four-day work week at the end of 2021, with the founder Ryan Breslow tweeting his belief that a 4-day work week isn’t an if; it’s a when.
- After running a trial in July 2021, Massachusetts-based Knowledge Futures Group, a nonprofit created as a partnership between MIT Press and MIT Media, made the feature a permanent part of the company. Their spokesperson cited “increases in job satisfaction and feelings of connection to coworkers” despite working fewer hours.
But the 4-day workweek wasn’t a home run for all who embraced it. Shake Shack launched it in 2019 as a recruiting and retention perk, then put the program on hold in September 2021. They have remained mum on when they might revisit the concept.
In addition, there’s an argument that the 4-day workweek doesn’t make a change for people who need a change. For example, on the Newsweek list of 31 companies, the majority were tech companies of some ilk, not those employing essential workers in fields like industry and hospitality.
Creative Workweeks to Cover Business Needs
For some industries, especially those facing labor shortages, including healthcare and manufacturing, reducing hours can increase labor expenses to provide coverage around the clock. Employers have been getting creative with scheduling shifts for around-the-clock business needs to create a work situation that provides employees with better work-life balance via more extended weekends.
For example, when hospitals implement 12-hour shifts as part of an alternating 3-day and 4-day work week, the schedule can vary depending on the hospital’s specific needs and the preferences of the employees. However, a typical schedule is to work 3 to 4 consecutive 12-hour shifts (for example, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and every other Thursday) and then have 3 to 4 consecutive days off (for example, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and every other Thursday). This schedule allows employees to have a long weekend every other week, which can provide a better work-life balance and allow for more time for personal pursuits.
Another example from the manufacturing industry is from an automobile parts supplier, Magna International, which implemented a 4-day work week with 10-hour shifts in its plant in Tennessee in 2021. Under this schedule, employees work Monday through Thursday and have a 3-day weekend, with an option for overtime on Fridays. The program has been reported to be well-received by employees and has reduced turnover and absenteeism.
The 4-day Workweek on a Deeper Level
Thus far, much of the conversation has been about productivity and employee retention, as that drives profits. But could it be about something more, a new approach to how we view work as fitting into our lives? By expanding the time we have for investing in ourselves, our family, our communities, and even side hustles–can that be a worthy goal that businesses will embrace?
Examples show a growing interest in alternative work models among North American companies. However, further research, pilot programs, and dialogue are necessary to determine whether the 4-day workweek can become widespread in the United States. By learning from the experiences of early adopters and engaging in open conversation, American employers and employees can explore innovative solutions that balance the benefits of reduced workweeks with the potential challenges and unique requirements of their respective sectors.
Equiliem (www.equiliem.com) believes in empowering success. It’s our job to cultivate relationships that connect people and employers in a way that is inclusive, intelligent, and allows both to thrive.
Across the U.S., leading companies in healthcare, government, light industrial manufacturing, professional services, and energy rely on us for their workforce solutions. Our recruiting and HR services include contract and direct hire staffing, Payrolling/EOR, Independent Contractor Compliance, and Managed Services.
Since 1995, we’ve helped shape our industry. Today, we continue to research, ask questions, and continuously enhance the candidate journey and client experience.