The Case for Four-Day Workweeks (Opinion)

Publisher’s note: Joe O’Connor is CEO of 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit organization that supports organizations around the world to try or transition to part-time. Juliet Schor is an economist and Professor of Sociology at Boston College who has been researching working time since the 1980s. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors.

(CNN) — It is already known how difficult the pandemic has been for workers. A Conference Board survey of workers in September 2021 found that more than three-quarters of U.S. respondents said stress and burnout were major challenges for them. be at work, compared to 55% six months earlier. And the work hours have increased more during the pandemic than in previous years, probably due to the good economic situation. So it’s no wonder a record number of workers are leaving their jobs in search of more flexible opportunities.

While some employers put their hands on their heads in desperation, a growing number have begun experimenting with reduced working hours to give their employees a break and are offering a four-day, 32-hour week, no pay cuts. As a researcher and labor specialist, we know that shorter weeks can go a long way toward making employees happier and more productive, and therefore companies more profitable. In today’s tight job market, it makes sense for more companies to try.

Well-being improvement

To be clear, the four-day week predates the pandemic. A small number of companies around the world had started to implement the concept as early as 2010, with good results, but this was largely anecdotal evidence.

More recently, other ways of reducing working time have been systematically studied. In Iceland, as of 2015, 2,500 public sector workers began working 35 and 36 hour weeks with no change in salary. Careful research uncovered positive effects across the board. Workers had less stress, more energy, and a better work-life balance, as well as consistent or improved productivity.

Swedish studies on six-hour days for nurses had similar positive effects, with their own well-being significantly improved, albeit with a modest increase in salary costs due to hiring more staff to cover shifts. A common finding is that people who work four-day weeks get more sleep, which greatly contributes to their well-being.

Better company performance

The company best known for adopting four-day weeks is New Zealand’s Perpetual Guardian, whose founder, Andrew Barnes, offered its employees in 2018 the possibility of working 30 hours a week at the same salary, with the commitment to maintain the same salary. productivity. Also a co-founder of 4 Day Week Global, Barnes commissioned an independent academic study prior to the eight-week trial, finding vast improvements in employee welfare and on company performance/revenue.

Since then it has spearheaded the move to the four-day week, helping to organize trials that support and study the impact of shorter workweeks on business, with more than 150 companies and more than 7,500 employees worldwide participating. . Reports so far are very positive both in terms of company performance and employee well-being.

Our first group of companies have not completed the six-month trial, but the midway results show significant improvements in stress and burnout, physical and mental health, and life satisfaction.

higher retention

As companies try to stem the tide of resignations and solve the problem of job vacancies, offering shorter workweeks makes even more sense. Adam Husney, CEO of Healthwise, a nonprofit education provider based in Boise, Idaho, blamed high dropout rates in June 2021 for his decision to institute a four-day week two months later, which he said , greatly improved the employee retention. He also noted that remote work created the trust necessary for shorter workweeks to succeed. He says he trusts his employees to keep doing all their work, and he has the performance numbers to back it up.

The economic arguments in favor of shortening the working day are increasingly convincing. Employee burnout and stress are the main reasons some companies decide to try four-day workweeks. After all, maintaining 100% productivity may not be so crucial if the company can save on healthcare costs, resignations, and talent attraction.

Governments also play a critical role in driving this movement with incentives, regulations and legislation. In fact, a growing number of governments it is initiating its own tests of reducing working hours, or encouraging companies to do so.

Momentum for the four-day workweek is growing around the world. The future of work is spending less time at work. And it’s already here.

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