The four-day workweek has been gaining momentum around the world in the last year. A majority of employers who've tried the schedule, predominantly in Europe, plan to continue to pay employees for 40 hours for 32 hours of work. The decision comes after they tested the waters with a six-month pilot program organized by researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.
In Canada, an overwhelming majority—91 percent—of 1,449 senior managers surveyed by Robert Half favored some type of four-day workweek, although 45 percent favored a four-day week with employees working longer, 10-hour shifts.
But is a four-day, 32-hour workweek feasible in the U.S.?
"If you asked me three years ago, I would say it was a passing trend, but I think COVID has changed the lens [on] how we work," said Julie Voges, SHRM-SCP, regional managing director of HR at Atlanta-based OneDigital,an insurance, financial services and HR consulting firm. "This is just an iteration of how we work. I think it's inevitable. I think management needs to get its head around it. I think COVID has helped move the needle."
U.S.-based organizations with global footprints will need to adapt to remain competitive and have alignment between domestic and internationally based employees, she said. There's also the matter of the employer proposition, which has changed, she pointed out.
"Employees have the cards to play … they're demanding more paid time off, they want the hybrid, they want the remote [options]. … Employers have to be really creative in the total rewards package," she said. Very few people, she added, wouldn't be enticed by getting paid 40 hours for 32 hours of work.
Employers also are cognizant that the birth rate decline and the number of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce are creating hiring challenges.
"All those things together are creating the perfect storm," she said.
Job candidates already can find LinkedIn postings for U.S. employers offering four-day workweeks. Two six-month global pilot programs in 2022—primarily in the U.S. and Ireland—have been"a resounding success," according to one report.
Movement in the States
Almost 60 school districts across Texas are switching to four-day school weeks, with some of those districts approving the change for the 2023-24 school year, including one district that serves almost 6,500 students. The strategy aims to prevent teacher burnout, help with recruiting and improve student attendance rates.
There have been similar efforts at the state level. In February, Maryland lawmakers proposed a bill setting up a five-year pilot program that would give a state income tax credit to employers that moved at least 30 employees from a five-day to a four-day workweek without reducing pay or benefits. However, that bill was pulled in March; sponsors plan to seek a state labor department study.
California legislators introduced a bill in February 2022 that would create a 32-hour workweek for employers with 500 or more employees; it died in committee.The Society for Human Resource Management opposed the legislation and called it a "one-size-fits-all approach" that would create a "significant logistical burden for HR professionals, especially at companies with operations in multiple states."
Voges thinks if the four-day workweek concept takes hold on the coasts, "there's going to be a trickle-down effect, and it's going to … happen quickly."
The federal government has to play a leading role, she said, as it did 85 years ago when Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1938, limiting the workweek to 44 hours. Two years later, it amended the FLSA to create today's 40-hour workweek.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., reintroduced his32-hour Workweek Act to Congress this year. If passed, it would reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours.
[SHRM members-only toolkit:Managing Flexible Work Arrangements]
Private Employers' Options
There's nothing stopping employers from implementing a four-day workweek, pointed out Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor professor of management at The Wharton School and director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania.
"As far as I can tell, employers have no interest in a 32-hour week," he said."At least as presented and proposed in legislation, it means paying employees for a full week—40 hours for hourly-paid—but only having to work 32 hours, and for hourly employees, they [would] receive overtime pay after 32 hours rather than 40 at present."
Some organizations—and workers—are skeptical about the so-called advantages to a shortened workweek, The Wall Street Journal reported, with some workers wondering how they would be able to manage workloads and customer and client needs while putting in fewer hours. What they don't want, The Wall Street Journal noted, were 10-hour shifts over four days.
Many manufacturers moved to a four-day workweek prior to the pandemic—but with 10-hour shifts, noted Isidro "Izzy" Galicia, president and CEO of Incito Consulting Group in San Francisco. The ideal way to deploy this model, he said, is with overlapping schedules—some teams working Monday to Thursday 10-hour shifts while others work Tuesday to Friday.
"While I believe it is absolutely feasible to deploy a four-day workweek in which employees are paid for 40 hours but work 32," Galicia said, "a manufacturing environment provides an extra layer of complexity that may not be the same as in a service and transactional environment. In manufacturing, production targets are established based on customer demand and must be met over a certain period of time.
"If an [eight-hour] shift is removed from the equation, you then have 32 fewer hours per month to meet production goals. When this happens, many manufacturing organizations find themselves overburdening the workforce, which is in direct contrast to employee well-being."
Things to Consider
Implementing a four-day workweek can require tinkering with how shifts and annual leave are handled along with "removing or improving work processes to get the same output in in four days," Bloomberg reported.
Qwick, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based staffing platform for food and beverage businesses, rolled out a pilot program for four months in 2022 for its 172 employees after extensively researching other organizations that had experimented with a shorter workweek.
The new schedule was well-received, said Retta Kekic, chief marketing officer, but since Qwick serves the highly seasonal hospitality industry, it extended the pilot through June 2023 to evaluate the effect on employees and to compare week-to-week output and performance over a full year.
Employees work 32 hours Monday through Thursday with a rotating schedule for the week and weekend to support clients in the hospitality industry. Before the pilot, employees worked 38 hours weekly.
"Adjusting the business and team workflow to the four-day workweek has been an iterative process, but one we have accomplished without adding contractors or part-time workers to the team," Kekic told SHRM Online.
"It's important that we're frequently auditing calendars to make sure meetings are efficient and effective. We also continuously evaluate our processes to see if there are more efficient ways of accomplishing our work while ensuring we're focused on projects that have the best and biggest impact."
Additionally, employees are surveyed quarterly to check how the new schedule is affecting their work and lives.
"Morale has increased—the share of employees who report feeling well-rested and ready for work on Monday mornings increased 32 percentage points to 96 percent after we started the four-day workweek.
"We know a team that is recharged, rested and ready for the week can contribute their most productive and creative work. We also saw an 8 percent jump in the number of employees who reported that they're able to think of creative solutions in order to solve unique challenges and problems at work."
One aspect the company didn't anticipate, Kekic noted, was "the difficulty of handling holidays, which can further shorten an already truncated workweek. … So, when a holiday is observed on a Monday or midweek, we will adjust the schedule so our team is on and working the Friday of that week."
Qwick CEO Jamie Baxter wrote in a February 2022 blog post that one of the reasons driving the change was the belief "that a four-day workweek will result in increased productivity and creativity, all while positively impacting the health and wellness of our team."
It's also a recruitment strategy and aligns with Qwick's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, he noted. Many of its employees are caregivers; the hope is that this will alleviate their stress and offset the cost of child care, he wrote.
Employers need to be clear on why they would change to a shorter workweek, Galicia pointed out.
"Employers need to make certain," he said, "that they remember the reason for the four-day workweek ... to recruit and retain top talent by demonstrating a true investment in their employee's well-being."
Other SHRM resources
Are Shorter Workweeks Good for Business? HR Magazine, Winter 2022.
Four-Day Workweek Gaining Momentum, SHRM Online, September 2022.
What Employers Should Know Before Trying a 4-Day Workweek, SHRM Online, June 2022.
The Manager's Take on the 4-Day Workweek, SHRM Online, March 2022.
Want to Switch to a 4-Day Workweek? Here's How to Run a Pilot, SHRM Online, January 2022.
"While I believe it is absolutely feasible to deploy a four-day workweek in which employees are paid for 40 hours but work 32," Galicia said, "a manufacturing environment provides an extra layer of complexity that may not be the same as in a service and transactional environment.Is it a good idea to work 32 hours a week? ›
The 32-hour work schedule can promote creativity and drive innovation. As employees switch to a short workweek, they need to find unique, innovative ways to complete tasks faster and save time. This encourages them to explore strategies to improve their work and develop new best practices for their roles.Will us move to 4 day work week? ›
Some 71 percent of Americans say they support the concept of a four-day workweek, a poll for Newsweek shows, while 83 percent think they could complete their weekly workload in four days. American work culture remains focused on 'busyness,' which could represent an obstacle to the introduction of the shorter workweek.Do any countries have 4 day work weeks? ›
Iceland. Between 2015 and 2019, Iceland led one of the largest 4-day workweek pilots to date, with close to 2,500 people participating. The trial was considered an “overwhelming success” among researchers, with employees reporting improved well-being, work-life balance and productivity.Has moving to a four-day workweek proved to be good for employee? ›
For many workers, a four-day week translated to better health. About 40% of respondents said they experienced less work-related stress, and 71% reported lower levels of burnout.What are the downsides of a 32-hour work week? ›
Disadvantages of a 32-Hour Workweek
For many employers, it can be too costly to compensate overtime wages for a 32-hour workweek. This is due to the fact that with current legislation, employers are required to pay overtime wages for any employee who works over 40 hours per week.
California legislators introduced a bill in February 2022 that would create a 32-hour workweek for employers with 500 or more employees; it died in committee.Why are many companies switching to a 4 day work week? ›
The idea of a four-day workweek gained popularity after the Covid-19 pandemic led many people to push for more flexible work arrangements. Proponents say four-day workweeks increase employee well-being without sacrificing productivity.Is it illegal to work 7 days a week in the US? ›
Employers can get permission from the Department of Labor to work their employees 7 days a week, but they can only do that a maximum of 8 weeks a year. See the complete rules here. The Department of Labor also enforces the law on behalf of employees. Their “One Day Rest in Seven Act” number is (312) 793-2804.What are the disadvantages of a 4 day work week? ›
- It could lead to more stress.
- It could require additional customer support.
- A one-size schedule does not fit all.
- How it applies to parents and teachers.
- Businesses could face higher costs for more well-adjusted employees.
Belgium. Belgium is the latest country to not only introduce a 4-day workweek, but also gives employees the right to ignore work-related messages and turn off work devices after work hours.Which country has 6 day work week? ›
6 Days Work Week
Countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea have a high number of average work hours per year.
|Rank||Country||Work Week Hours|
Is it realistic to have a four-hour workweek in 2021? Probably not, but depending on your financial needs, you can likely live anywhere, work the schedule you want to work, and have more flexibility than ever. Remote work has become the norm for many companies, but how does it affect team productivity?What is the ideal 4 day work week? ›
A four-day workweek is, ideally, a 32-hour workweek with no loss in productivity, pay, or benefits. 2 Depending on the company and the industry, everyone might work Monday through Thursday and have Fridays off.How do you justify a 4 day work week? ›
- Determine what business needs will be met by a four-day workweek. ...
- Consult with different areas of your business on what they need. ...
- Be clear about what's changing and staying the same. ...
- Clearly label the intended benefits of the change.
So how much work is too much? A recent study by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization shows that working more than 55 hours a week can have negative effects on your health.Why you shouldn't work more than 40 hours a week? ›
It's not good for employee well-being.
Not only do longer work weeks eventually negatively impact a company's bottom line (as detailed below), but they can also sabotage an employee's well-being. Although there are some exceptions, as certain people really do love their jobs, most people require time away from work.
Working for 80+ hours could be considered an extreme sport, and, as such, you shouldn't do it every day. If you still have to do it from time to time, sticking to a strict routine and blocking your time will help you succeed. Friendly advice: Don't make working 80+ hours per week into a routine.Why are we forced to work 40 hours a week? ›
And when the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, the U.S. Gov't saw Ford's shorter workweek as a way to fight the massive unemployment crisis – companies would need to hire more workers to get the job done. By 1940, a series of laws made the 40-hour workweek the norm in the U.S. It has been that way ever since.
Presently, no OSHA standard to regulate extended and unusual shifts in the workplace exists. A work period of eight consecutive hours over five days with at least eight hours of rest in between shifts defines a standard shift. Any shift that goes beyond this standard is considered to be extended or unusual.What state has the longest work weeks? ›
Americans in most states work an average of 33-36 hours per week. Texas leads the U.S. with the longest work week at 36 hours. Following behind Texans are workers in Washington D.C., Tennessee, and West Virginia, which all average in the 35-hour range.Is a 4 day work week better for Mental Health? ›
Employees who shift to a four-day workweek may experience less burnout, stress, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep problems, new research shows. The U.K.'s Four-Day Week Pilot—the world's largest experiment on a shortened workweek so far—showed measurable mental and physical health benefits for employees who participated.What country just moved to a 4 day work week? ›
Belgium introduces a four-day workweek for employees who want it. In February last year, Belgian employees won the right to perform a full workweek in four days instead of the usual five without loss of salary.Is 4 10 hour shifts better? ›
Workforce Institute's research demonstrates that a 4/10 work schedule reduces employee stress and boosts their happiness and well-being. Having an extra day off each week allows employees to find a better work-life balance. In this context, offering 4/10 hour shifts have also shown to increase employee attendance.How many days in a row can you legally work in the US? ›
Is there a limit to the number of consecutive days or the number of hours an exempt employee can work? The Fair Labor Standards Act does not limit the number of hours or days that an employee age 16 or older can be required to work.Are you obligated to answer work calls on personal time? ›
So to summarize, yes, your boss can fire you for not answering your phone on your day off. Some employers are respectful of employees' time off. Others may abuse at-will employment laws and harass you consistently on your days off. In fact, they may consider it part of your job.Is working 7 days a week healthy? ›
While working seven days a week can affect your mental health and long-term productivity, there are several ways to manage this type of work schedule. Understanding the various ways to do this can help you avoid burnout and may grant you greater job satisfaction.Is the 5 day work week outdated? ›
While the five-day, 40-hour workweek is a nearly century-old tradition, the model is severely outdated. Employees should be measured by output, not hours.Does 4 day work week save money? ›
Lower Office Running Costs
Shifting to a four-day workweek reduces overhead expenses such as electricity and other office costs. Cutting such costs would save you a lot of money with time. In addition, office supplies will last longer, and equipment such as printers, scanners, and copiers will depreciate slower.
Even though you're used to a 40-hour—or longer—workweek, that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider other options. In fact, a 30-hour workweek, generally consisting of four full workdays (seven and a half hours) a week, or five six-hour days, offers numerous potential advantages.How many hours per week is it good to work? ›
If you want to achieve the perfect blend of productivity, happiness, and time affluence, a more realistic goal is to work slightly below 40 hours per week. The research shows that even shaving an hour or two off of the standard 40-hour workweek can have huge benefits, both at work and at home.How many hours a week should the average person work? ›
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics , the average number of hours worked per week is around 34.6. This estimate is consistent with the national standard for 40 hours per week for full-time employees.How many hours is too many to work per week? ›
So how much work is too much? A recent study by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization shows that working more than 55 hours a week can have negative effects on your health.