Four-day workweek movement gaining momentum in the U.S.

Nov 29, 2022, 3:54 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2022, 2:26 pm
four-day workweek...
A worker pours a pint of beer at Pressure Drop Brewery, in north London, on May 21, 2022. Members of staff at the Pressure Drop brewery are taking part in a six-month trial of a four-day working week, with 3,000 others from 60 UK companies. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

One hundred UK companies agreed to a permanent four-day workweek Monday for approximately 2,600 total employees — all without a loss in pay.

This movement is spearheaded by 4 Day Week, an organization that backs the idea of the four-day week as a part of the future of the workforce.

“I’m a big advocate of the four-day workweek,” said Spike O’Neill, host of KIRO Nights. “People are more effective and productive when they’re adequately rested. A four-day workweek is much more productive than a five-day workweek. Everybody throws at least one day away. Might be Monday, might be Friday, but they throw one away. A four-day workweek? You can’t, you got to be productive. Got to get it done. And you don’t mind getting it done because you got a three-day weekend coming up.”

Ross: Do we still need a 40-hour work week?

Since the establishment of a five-day, 40-hour workweek during the Great Depression, scholars have predicted a decrease in hours as productivity increased. In 1928, economist John Keynes predicted a 15-hour workweek within a century, according to The New Yorker. In 1965, a Senate subcommittee predicted an even shorter 14-hour workweek by 2000, with seven weeks of vacation, according to CNN.

Currently, 17 countries are using a four-day workweek or piloting a similar program, including 12 European countries.

78% of employees with four-day weeks are happier and less stressed, according to 4 Day Week, while 63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a four-day week.

The movement has made its way down south to Australia, as more than 60% of Australians thought a four-day workweek would be “increasingly important” to them in the next two years, according to Yahoo Finance.

“The savings in running the business itself — the utility costs, the commuting costs for your workforce — it just makes so much sense,” Spike said. “And the city in England said it was 32 [hours], not 40. Not four-10s. But four-8s.”

In the U.S., a pivot to a four-day workweek is in play, but the debate has been over when to work said hours — like a 4-day, 10-hour compressed work schedule — instead of working fewer hours in a given week.

An employee clocking in on a 4/10 schedule is still working 40 hours each week, just fitting those hours into four days instead of five. Companies have cited seeing positive growth in productivity, recruitment and retention, and in morale, according to Hourly.

“Now, all jobs don’t lend themselves to a 40-hour workweek,” Spike said. “There are service-type industries, and there are different type of jobs that are going to need to be around four to seven days a week easily. And that’s fine. But a large majority of the working population can live better.”

Concerns over a 4/10 schedule range from worker inequality amongst peers to staffing challenges, while detractors believe worker fatigue, increased levels of stress, poor eating habits, lack of physical activity, and illness are all consequences of a 10-hour day.

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But Spike stands firm that four-day workweeks are the future.

“There’s a system for like, firefighters, which is an excellent example,” Spike said. “They have so many days on and then so many days off and it’s just better for their state of mind. They have a much more well-rounded life and well-rounded physical and mental state of being.”

In October, just 0.8% of job postings on Indeed mentioned a four-day workweek, or any other variation of the term, according to Yahoo Finance. That’s up 0.2% from a year ago and 0.4% from before the pandemic.

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Four-day workweek movement gaining momentum in the U.S.