In July 2021, California Congressman Mark Takano presented a bill to reduce the average American workweek from five days to four.
It isn’t the first time the concept of a four-day workweek has been discussed. As early as the 1950s, then-Vice President Richard Nixon believed such an employment innovation was right around the corner. Almost 70 years later, just 5 percent of U.S. workers work four-day weeks. Yet, according to a 2019 FlexJobs survey, “80 percent of workers said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.”
Rekindling the Conversation
Recently, businessman Andrew Barnes, co-author of “The 4 Day Week,” has helped renew the conversation.
The book explores the results of a productivity test he conducted at his New Zealand firm. After reading a statistic that employees typically are productive for only about 2-1/2 hours a day, he became curious about productivity at his own company.
“I thought, if I offered my staff a day off a week, would they change the way they worked so they could be as productive in four days rather than five?” Barnes says in Employee Benefits News.
The experiment paid off. The company found that employees not only were more productive, focused and engaged, they were healthier and less stressed.
The Argument for a Shorter Workweek
It’s important to note the difference between a shorter workweek of four eight-hour days and a compressed workweek that packs 35-40 on-the-clock hours into four days.
Congressman Takano argues that a shorter workweek will address income inequality by requiring employers to pay workers overtime after 32 hours. He sees the four-day week as a competitive employee benefit that enhances work-life balance.
“In many sectors of the workforce, employers will find they can pay their workers the same wages for a four-day workweek as for five and still get the same output and productivity,” Congressman Takano said in U.S. News. “And employees can choose to enjoy a three-day weekend or pick up extra work if needed on that extra day off.”
TPD Gives the Consensed Work Week a Try
“TPD piloted a condensed work week last fall. It was so well received, we rolled it into a true four-day workweek late last year,” said Nikita Weisgerber, VP of Operations.
Learning from the eight-week experiment, TPD refocused our energies on the effective use of communication tools that enable us to remain an ultra-responsive, high-impact recruiting firm. We also tweaked the program to be more inclusive by providing a scheduling option to work five shorter days. This has been well-received by parents of young children, as well as those who simply prefer shorter spans of high productivity.
“Ultimately,” said Ms. Weisgerber, “we want to provide the flexibility for our teams to work how, when and wherever works for them. The four-day workweek is a big step in that direction.”
A Four-Day Week: Not for Everyone
But is a 32-hour, four-day week a pioneering work evolution or pie-in-the-sky? Critics say establishing a shorter workweek might prove too costly or impractical in some industries and may heighten a class divide.
“Front-line and blue-collar workers don’t have the same kind of flexibility as those who work in offices,” notes NBC News. “Some may have the option of working fewer, longer shifts, but industries that rely on hourly workers might not be willing to let employees tack on a few extra hours if that means incurring overtime wage costs.”
Brent Orrell, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, recognizes how greatly workers value schedule flexibility, but he disagrees with the need for a federal mandate.
“We should be patient and allow workers and companies to negotiate their way toward conditions where a greater number of workers can enjoy the possibility of a shorter workweek,” he said. “If we want to honor the desire for greater job flexibility, then the shortest path to reaching that goal is to let the market work, gradually adjusting the work week as technology and productivity improvements allow.”
Contact TPD to learn more about their four-day week experiment or for expert assistance with staffing solutions.