Over the past several years, the 32-hour — or 4-day workweek — has taken hold in policy spaces and by labour politicians as a way of righting the long-broken tie between hours spent at work and productivity while at work. For decades, workers have spent more and more time in the office or at work while their salaries remain flat and productivity unchanged.
The disconnect has been so profound that several major companies, including Kickstarter, Bolt, Unilever, and more, have tried the 4-day workweek in their own professional spheres. And whole countries (like Iceland) have tried the revolutionary work-life balance program themselves. Now, the 4-day-workweek is facing another big test. Per CNBC, 38 companies across the United States and Canada are trying their own 4-day workweek pilot program.
4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit community that aims to support the implementation of 4-day-workweek pilot programs at companies and in governments worldwide, launched a six-month pilot program for the 4-day workweek in North America on Friday, April 1st. Kickstarter, it so happens, is a part of the pilot program — they just started their trial earlier than other companies. The pilot program will end in September. And the U.S. and Canada are not alone — starting June 1, 50 UK companies that employ 3,000 workers are set to try the shorter week as well.
The companies included in the U.S. and Canada trials will be matched with a mentor company that has successfully transitioned to the 4-day workweek, complete workshops to help them make the transition, and will work with researchers at Boston College to measure the efficacy of a shorter workweek. The pilot program’s aim is to show that people can work for 80% of the time they used to — and still earn 100% of their pay — and stay as productive as they were when they worked longer hours.
The data on 4-day workweeks has so far been extremely promising. Buffer, a small company, tried the 4-day work week during the early pandemic and found that 91% of employees were happier, 73% worked the shorter schedule, and 84% said they were able to get the work they needed to be done in 32 hours. They also reported being less stressed out and happier, and felt like they had more independence in their lives. Similarly, after a 3-month trial of the short week, fintech start-up Bolt made the change permanent after finding that 94% of workers and 91% of managers liked the change so much they wanted to make it permanent. In total, 84% of respondents said they had a greater work-life balance.
The trial in Iceland was overwhelmingly successful on the same terms: Workers had more time for hobbies, rest, and spent more time with loved ones, while output remained unchanged or even increased. Trials have been so successful so far that California Representative Mark Takano introduced the Thirty-Two-Hour Workweek Act to Congress in July 2021.
The bill, which would decrease the federally recognized workweek from 40 to 32 hours a week and mandate time-and-a-half overtime pay for anything more, has not moved through the House to be voted on. But its mere introduction suggests that politicians, as well as businesspeople, are reimagining how work looks in the United States.
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