The four-day work week in the US won’t happen overnight
According to recent studies, working four days a week instead of five can improve people’s overall well-being. The challenge, however, is whether businesses can maintain the same level of productivity over shorter periods of time. VOA correspondent Veronica Balderas Iglesias spoke with those who have experimented with this formula.
The idea of working eight hours a day for just four days a week, but earning the same salary, appeals to dentist Iria Ondo.
“If you have another business, you can work there or rest at home, spend time with your family.”
But for James Rogers, who owns a construction business in South Dakota, the formula wouldn’t necessarily work.
“We need longer work weeks just to get the work done on time.”
In 2022, the non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global and its partners ran several six-month pilot programs in the United States and the United Kingdom. They noted several benefits of shortened work hours, including less worker fatigue and sleeplessness and a 65% drop in absenteeism… said organization co-founder Charlotte Lockhart.
“The welfare statistics are really telling, but also what we’ve found is that productivity in businesses that have continued the program has either stayed the same or increased.”
Democratic Congressman Mark Takano recently reintroduced a proposal to establish a 32-hour work week statewide without pay cuts. So far, he doesn’t have Republican support for the proposal to become law, and he admits the details still need to be worked out.
“It will be different for plumbers, carpenters and people who work on the assembly line. How all of this is going to be put into a wage balance, I don’t have all the answers to that,” said legislator Mark Takano.
He is convinced that the time is right to debate the idea.
“Because of the pandemic, because people got used to new work flexibilities, they experience new ways of doing things because they had to. What we’re finding is that people don’t want to go back to the old ways. They want a new normal”.
Digital marketing and advertising firm Liquified Creative tried the four-day workweek experiment for several years, starting in 2020. CEO Shawn Noratel said it was a bumpy ride.
“It was very stressful for the employees because they were trying to do 40 hours of work in a 32-hour work week. Also being able to respond to customers was very difficult.”
As data is still scarce, a new pilot will launch in the US later this year to further investigate the benefits and drawbacks of reduced working hours. The 4 Day Week Global organization is also planning to launch pilot programs in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.