The 4-Day Workweek Really Isn’t That Radical

We’re long overdue for a change

Today’s edition of Wishful Working is a 3 minute read.

ICYMI: Last week, US Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to establish a standard 32-hour workweek with no loss in pay. In a statement, he said this:

“The financial gains from major advancements in artificial intelligence, automation, and new technology must benefit the working class, not just corporate CEOs and wealthy stockholders on Wall Street.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

(Side note: I noticed he’s favoring the phrase “32-hour workweek” over “4-day workweek.” When I talk about a 4-day workweek, there are always people who assume I’m talking about a schedule where people work four 10-hour days. Absolutely not.)

People who oppose the idea of a 4-day/32-hour workweek usually parrot some of the same talking points, and today, I would like to rebut some of those common arguments.

“This is unprecedented. It simply can’t be done.”

Well, first of all, it actually isn’t unprecedented. Dozens of countries have experimented with and/or implemented a shorter workweek without a decrease in salaries. 

It isn’t even unprecedented in the United States. In 1933, the Senate passed a bill to reduce the standard workweek to just 30 hours, but due to pressure from business leaders, the bill was amended to establish the 40-hour workweek we know today.

And remember, people initially balked at the notion of a 5-day workweek when a 6- or 7-day workweek was the standard. 

“Workers won’t be able to do 40 hours of work in 32 hours.”

Executives and managers are understandably concerned about the potential loss in productivity when lopping an entire day off the standard 5-day week. But pilot programs have proven time and again that it’s possible to maintain productivity and business performance with a reduced workweek.

In fact, outcomes of 4-day workweek pilot programs have been overwhelmingly positive:

  • Reduced levels of anxiety and fatigue among employees

  • Less stress and burnout

  • Better work-life balance

  • Improved retention rates

  • Fewer sick days taken

It turns out happier, healthier employees might actually be more productive. 🤯

“This will result in increased labor costs, which will harm profitability.”

It’s possible that reducing the working week without reducing pay could increase labor costs for some companies, but it’s not a given. The cost benefits of increased employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity could easily outweigh any initial rise in labor costs.

And if companies are looking for places to offset potential increases in labor costs, I would suggest perhaps a pay cut for the executives, a group whose pay has skyrocketed in the last few decades while workers’ wages have stagnated. Just an idea. 😊

There are some legitimate concerns about the potential shift to a 4-day workweek, of course. It would be a major change and could require significant adjustments in terms of scheduling, workload distribution, and coordinating with clients and vendors accustomed to a traditional 5-day week. It’s a big idea with a lot of nuance that can’t be thoroughly examined in a 600-word newsletter.

But the 32-hour workweek really isn’t a radical idea — it’s a fair and feasible way to distribute some of the benefits of technology and productivity advancements to the working class. And, in my opinion, it’s an idea whose time has come.

What do you think of the 4-day/32-hour workweek? Reply to this email if you want to share — I would love to chat about it.

See you next week,