r/Economics 14d ago Take My Energy 2 LOVE! 1 Wholesome 3 All-Seeing Upvote 1 Heartwarming 1 Ally 1 Helpful 1

4-Day Workweek Brings No Loss of Productivity, Companies in Experiment Say News

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/22/business/four-day-work-week-uk.html
26.5k Upvotes

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u/MistraloysiusMithrax 14d ago Helpful Rocket Like

Most of the companies participating in a four-day workweek pilot program in Britain said they had seen no loss of productivity during the experiment, and in some cases had seen a significant improvement, according to a survey of participants published on Wednesday.

Nearly halfway into the six-month trial, in which employees at 73 companies get a paid day off weekly, 35 of the 41 companies that responded to a survey said they were “likely” or “extremely likely” to consider continuing the four-day workweek beyond the end of the trial in late November. All but two of the 41 companies said productivity was either the same or had improved. Remarkably, six companies said productivity had significantly improved.

Talk of a four-day workweek has been around for decades. In 1956, then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon said he foresaw it in the “not too distant future,” though it has not materialized on any large scale. But changes in the workplace over the coronavirus pandemic around remote and hybrid work have given momentum to questions about other aspects of work. Are we working five days a week just because we have done it that way for more than a century, or is it really the best way?

“If you look at the impact of the pandemic on the workplace, often we were too focused on the location of work,” said Joe O’Connor, the chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit group that is conducting the study with a think tank and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University. “Remote and hybrid work can bring many benefits, but it doesn’t address burnout and overwork.”

Some leaders of companies in the trial said the four-day week had given employees more time to exercise, cook, spend time with their families and take up hobbies, boosting their well-being and making them more energized and productive when they were on the clock. Critics, however, worried about added costs and reduced competitiveness, especially when many European companies are already lagging rivals in other regions.

Daily business updates The latest coverage of business, markets and the economy, sent by email each weekday.

More than 3,300 workers in banks, marketing, health care, financial services, retail, hospitality and other industries in Britain are taking part in the pilot, which is one of the largest studies to date, according to Jack Kellam, a researcher at Autonomy, a think tank that is one of the organizers of the trial.

At Allcap, one of the companies in the pilot program, it was too soon to say how the shortened workweek had affected productivity or the company’s bottom line, said Mark Roderick, the managing director and the co-owner of the 40-person engineering and industrial supplies company. Overall, though, employees were happy with having an extra day off, and the company was considering continuing it.

“Customers haven’t really noticed any difference,” said Mr. Roderick, whose company’s headquarters are in Gloucester, England.

For Mr. Roderick, the new schedule gave him more time to train for a recent Ironman Triathlon in Wales. Still, some days are more stressful than they may have been, since summer holidays and the shorter workweek have meant that staff can be stretched thin. “We’ve all been under the cosh a bit,” he said, using a British phrase for “in a difficult situation.”

Experiments similar to the one conducted in Britain are being conducted in other countries too, mostly in the private sector, including in the United States, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. In a trial in Gothenburg, Sweden, officials found employees completed the same amount of work or even more.

Jo Burns-Russell, the managing director at Amplitude Media, a marketing agency in Northampton, England, said the four-day workweek had been such a success that the 12-person company hoped to be able to make it permanent. Employees have found ways to work more efficiently, she said. The result has been that the company is delivering the same volume of work and is still growing, even though half of the employees are off on Wednesdays and half on Fridays.

“It’s definitely been good for me in terms of making me not ping from thing to thing to thing all the time,” Ms. Burns-Russell said. She has taken up painting as a hobby and feels calmer overall. August is typically a slower month for the firm, she said, so the real test will be how the experiment goes over the final few months as the company expands, she said.

Gary Conroy, the founder and chief executive at 5 Squirrels, a skin care manufacturer based in Brighton, England, that is participating in the trial, said employees had become more productive, while making fewer errors, and that employees were collaborating better.

“We’ve kind of gotten away from ‘That’s your job, not mine,’” he said, “because we’re all trying to get out of here at five o’clock on a Thursday.”

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u/fryloc87 14d ago

Bless you for this lol

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u/LostMyKarmaElSegundo 14d ago

Have any companies tried having different employees on a different 4-day schedule?

Like, half of them are off on Monday while the other half are off on Friday? That way, the business still operates five days per week.

Obviously, some teams need to work together, so it would have to accommodate that, but I can totally see a lot of businesses staggering their employees' days off.

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u/PalpitationNo3106 14d ago

A lot of federal agencies work this way. You work 80 hours in nine days and have the tenth off (so every other Friday or Monday or whatever.)

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u/umbravivum 14d ago

AGR is 4 day workweek. Just once a month you work weekend too.

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u/SACDINmessage 14d ago

You work a 4 day week? What kind of unit is that lol. We work 5 days weeks and two weekends a month, not including UTAs.

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u/Darth_drizzt_42 14d ago

I love me some 9/80

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u/RosscoSD 14d ago

9/80 is awesome and worth it in my opinion … but the days are long especially when you work extra hours. 7-5 is a very regular workday with that schedule

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u/narmerguy 14d ago

Have any companies tried having different employees on a different 4-day schedule?

Like, half of them are off on Monday while the other half are off on Friday? That way, the business still operates five days per week.

I know no one reads but from the article...

The result has been that the company is delivering the same volume of work and is still growing, even though half of the employees are off on Wednesdays and half on Fridays.

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u/LostMyKarmaElSegundo 14d ago

I skimmed it. Must have missed that part. Thanks.

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u/DeShawnThordason 14d ago Helpful

Recent Fortune article https://fortune.com/2022/09/20/four-day-workweek-employers-productivity-increase-uk-pilot/

The four-day workweek is … working.

That’s the message emerging from the closely watched companies shifting to four-day workweeks in pilot programs run by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global. A survey out Tuesday finds that 78% of leaders at the more than 70 UK companies that shifted to four-day schedules say their transition was good or “seamless.” Only 2% found it challenging. Most (88%) say that four-day schedules are working well.

The idea of a four-day workweek is no joke. California lawmakers recently considered, and then shelved, plans for a statewide four-day workweek for some employees. A survey by Gartner Inc. found a shorter week to be a favored recruitment and retention strategy.

Six-month pilot programs with over 180 companies are currently underway in a half-dozen countries. Employers typically transition to four-day, 32-hour schedules (with variations depending on role and industry), with no reduction in pay. In the UK pilot, executives at companies with a total of 3,300 employees were surveyed at the halfway point. The program is operated in conjunction with the 4 Day Week Campaign and the think tank Autonomy, along with a data-collection partnership of researchers at Boston College, Cambridge University and Oxford University.

Nearly all of the participating UK organizations (86%) said they’ll likely keep four-day schedules after the pilots finish in November. Almost half, 49%, said that productivity had improved, while 46% said it has remained stable.

“It’s extremely encouraging to see that,” said Joe O’Connor, chief executive officer of 4 Day Week Global, who had expected organizations to show steadier output. “We would see it as a big productivity success if productivity stayed the same.”

Pilot studies are continuing in the UK, US, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Canada.

Not all of the organizations that begin the trials complete them, O’Connor said. Roughly 1 in 5 employers drop out, more than half during the pre-planning stage. Executives who have undertaken the pilot studies say that they face the dual challenge of overcoming staff and industry five-day norms alongside the tricky task of removing of improving work processes to get the same output in in four days.

When companies drop out in the planning phase, “The primary reason is the leadership overthinking it and getting cold feet,” O’Connor said. “They start trying to fix every possible problem or issue before they actually run their trial, which is impossible, because a lot of the productivity gains and process improvements are ground up and led by teams.”

He also reports difficulties among companies with cultures of mistrust between leaders and employees.

“They think they’ve got an open, bottom-up style of decision-making, but in practice, that might not be so,” he said.

Growing pains are part of the process.

“It wasn’t a walk in the park at the start, but no major change ever is,” said Nicci Russell, managing director of Waterwise, a nonprofit focused on reducing water consumption. “We have all had to work at it—things like annual leave can make it harder to fit everything in. But the team are pretty happy, and we certainly all love the extra day out of the office.”

Once on four-day schedules, the companies that struggle are often very small and in fields that necessitate five- or seven-day shift coverage, which requires precise scheduling among small numbers of staff. The gift company Bookishly, for example, continues to tinker with staffing during busy times.

Organizations also abandon truncated schedule efforts when hit with unexpected changes, such as new leadership or financial changes. The UK trial participants range across sectors, such as education, media, hospitality and health care, and include Charity Bank, the supply-chain transparency company Everledger, the customer-communication platform Secure Digital Exchange, and the Royal Society of Biology.

O’Connor has learned that when companies don’t need him anymore, things are going well.

“They really need us in the early stages,” he said. “When the demand for contact with us slides, it means they’re well on the road to making this work.”

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u/Lukenack 14d ago edited 13d ago

productivity

I mean the usual definition of productivity is production by hours (or other input), not loosing or even getting a bit of productivity boost by reducing hours would be quite usual and expected. And it is usually not the question people have in mind.

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u/diogodontukno 14d ago

Good point, as you say if anything productivity should increase. Strange headline 🤔

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u/whutupmydude 14d ago

The last quote in that article is my favorite

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u/[deleted] 14d ago

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u/Yousoggyyojimbo 14d ago

I couldn't convince a company that flying employees across the country to attend one or two-hour meetings was a waste of money in the age of teleconference/zoom/ any of the other various options.

They were spending thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars a month doing this. Flying guys from across the country to come into the main office to sit in meetings for a day or two and then fly back.

The reason they wouldn't accept any input on this? Well, that's the way they've always done it...

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u/chaiscool 14d ago

Wait, this is real?

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u/Thurwell 13d ago

Yes it's real. Most business travel these days doesn't happen because people need to be anywhere, it's because they're bored. That one hour teams meeting is now a 3 day vacation, and you keep the frequent flyer miles for personal use.

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u/Yousoggyyojimbo 14d ago

Real and disgustingly common.

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u/chaiscool 14d ago

So is this the kind who say they work long hours 80hrs kind as they spend most of their time traveling to the destination office.

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u/tonufan 14d ago

The company I work for just paid nearly $10k (flight, hotel, and huge hourly rate) to have a technician flown in to service one of our machines that went down. They just swapped a cheap piece of plastic that was causing issues and was done in like half a minute.

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u/chaiscool 14d ago

Probably tell the technician they have no money to pay him more too. “You cost us $10k for each travel, we can’t afford a raise”

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u/DudeBrowser 14d ago

When I worked for a large car rental company they flew 4 of us to FL from the UK for 9 hours of training spread across 3 days. We already did this same training at https://www.khanacademy.org/

My boss called it a 'work holiday'.

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u/sucsucsucsucc 14d ago

And then I quit my job and got a new one 🙃

They’ll replace me, and maybe even the person after me, but eventually they’ll run out of people willing to settle.

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u/chaiscool 14d ago

Schools don’t stop making desperate people ever year lol, they ain’t running out of people willing to settle.

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u/sucsucsucsucc 14d ago

Desperate people aren’t usually the highest quality employees, when you can’t hire good talent you either suffer as a business or realize you have to change

Either way, it’s bad business to ignore what your talent pool wants

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u/YesICanMakeMeth 14d ago

Didn't the US invent the 5 day/40 hour work week (Ford)?

Not saying you're totally wrong, the inertia is there, but things do change - particularly given such a strong impetus such as is the case with covid driving the WFH cultural shift.

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u/YesICanMakeMeth 14d ago edited 14d ago

We just exited a major (threatened) railworker union strike which resulted in improved working conditions for the railworkers.

I'm not convinced that it is impossible to accomplish. The general sentiment on reddit strikes (hah) me as overly defeatist, likely because of the ge. Do you think that prior victories were painless? I see your point about the lack of will/cohesion today, but the battle is obviously still ongoing.

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u/Ok_Yogurtcloset8915 14d ago edited 14d ago

I have a lot of doubts that people are willing to feel pain for this. In the US especially, the group of people most likely to benefit from this, office/knowledge workers, is the group that's suffering the least. The desperation that drove those prior victories just isn't there.

I don't think it's hopeless, as I do think it would be possible to get this through as a secondary priority if leftists win elections, but it's much more important to focus on things that every worker can benefit from, like fair pay, wage theft enforcement, and a decoupling of healthcare from employment.

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u/DoctorWaluigiTime 14d ago

All I know is that there was no 'work week' and 'weekend' before we got things like weekends off, 40 hour work week, etc.

It was a big step forward. Just have to do it again.

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u/hereditydrift 14d ago

Seems like more and more employees are recognizing that they can have power if they work collectively.

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u/bsEEmsCE 14d ago

and more people than ever are job hopping for better opportunities. Businesses will need to compromise at some point.

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u/Creative_Warning_481 14d ago

Not only that but let's see how many of these companies in the trial actually do it past study

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u/DoctorWaluigiTime 14d ago

Some companies are screaming about hybrid/full-time remote.

Others are embracing it and netting the benefits. (Like poaching stuck-in-the-past employers who refuse (when they have no reason) to let people work from home if they choose.)

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u/VeeJockey 14d ago

My layman's opinion is I think there could be something to it. Who among us has not experienced the "amount of work expands to fill the time" phenomenon? I know I've seen it over and over again in my life on both a first and second hand basis in all kinds of settings (home, school, work, private business, government, etc).

Beyond that though, even if you felt it was totally bullshit, why would you not go along with it? I mean, seriously, permanent 3 day weekends and all kinds of people are like, "hmm, let's tread carefully here?"

Surely the percentage of the population who actually have a vested interest in worker productivity - CEOs, factory owners, etc - has got to be impossibly small. It seems crazy to think that working people wouldn't be able to find the leverage to say, "nah, sorry, this is happening - good luck with your profits though."

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u/Dark_Clark 14d ago

Well said. Most of the arguments for why we shouldn’t do it are no different from the arguments for why we shouldn’t have a 5 day work week instead of 6.

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u/ZapsMojo 14d ago

That doesn’t really apply to efficient industry. I’m not opposed at all to trying new patterns and would love a 4 day nominal work week. However in 24/7 industry it gets pretty weird in terms of personnel and shift patterns. It would probably only a take a short time to establish new norms though to adapt with some kind of new rotation.

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u/OPengiun 14d ago

Taking a lot of small breaks throughout the day also helps to increase productivity drastically and reduce errors! Check out the Pomodoro Technique!

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u/GaySkull 14d ago

This Pomodoro Technique?

Description:

The original technique has six steps:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.

  2. Set the pomodoro timer (typically for 25 minutes).

  3. Work on the task.

  4. End work when the timer rings and take a short break (typically 5–10 minutes).

  5. If you have finished fewer than three pomodoros, go back to Step 2 and repeat until you go through all three pomodoros.

  6. After three pomodoros are done, take the fourth pomodoro and then take a long break (typically 20 to 30 minutes). Once the long break is finished, return to step 2.

For the purposes of the technique, a pomodoro is an interval of work time.

Regular breaks are taken, aiding assimilation. A 10-minute break separates consecutive pomodoros. Four pomodoros form a set. There is a longer 20–30 minute break between sets.

A goal of the technique is to reduce the effect of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A pomodoro is indivisible; when interrupted during a pomodoro, either the other activity must be recorded and postponed (using the inform – negotiate – schedule – call back strategy) or the pomodoro must be abandoned.

After task completion in a pomodoro, any remaining time should be devoted to activities, for example:

  1. Review your work just completed.

  2. Review the activities from a learning point of view (ex: What learning objective did you accomplish? What learning outcome did you accomplish? Did you fulfill your learning target, objective, or outcome for the task?)

  3. Review the list of upcoming tasks for the next planned pomodoro time blocks, and start reflecting on or updating them.

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u/scalybanana 14d ago

Thanks, I’ll try that between my back to back all day meetings.

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u/Lews-Therin-Telamon 14d ago

Just tell your boss or client that your timer went off and walk out. I'm sure they will understand.

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u/ZenAdm1n 14d ago

This is why you never pay for a Zoom account. The meetings are the perfect length on the free plan.

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u/pmcda 14d ago

So what you’re telling me is that despite my coworkers complaining about my smoke breaks, I’ve actually turned my nicotine addiction into a pomodoro timer?

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u/css2165 14d ago

Yes you have. However many will not be able to see past their bias internal prejudice against smoking and disagree with you.

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u/InitiatePenguin 14d ago

That would more than double the amount of break time we are given.

15 min after two hours

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u/Attila_22 14d ago

I hate this for software development. It always rings when you're in the middle of things and slows down your work. I'd rather work 3 concentrated hours and then chill/handle emails for the rest of the day than have this on/off thing.

My gf does it as a designer and it seems to work for her though.

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u/Smogshaik 14d ago

I don‘t know, this has never seemed a good approach to me at all

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u/jay2243 14d ago

This sounds like something I’d say I do in an interview, but in reality I’d never do it. I probably should though

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u/detectiveDollar 14d ago

I'd love to try this but I'd need to lengthen the pomodoros. It takes me extra time to focus but once I'm in I'm in. AdHD

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u/MorgothOfTheVoid 14d ago

yes, but then you're spending 1/3 of your otherwise three day weekend around the office.

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u/OPengiun 14d ago

Huh?

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u/LostMyKarmaElSegundo 14d ago

I think they were saying taking small breaks during a 5-day week instead of doing a 4-day week.

I don't think your comment implies breaks in lieu of a shorter week.

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u/SethEllis 14d ago

We should be cautious of drawing too many conclusions after only a six month study.

Take for instance results from studies at Microsoft concerning remote work. There are impacts that only become apparent after years.

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u/yoursmartfriend 14d ago

True. Remember how long it took for us to understand the impact of giving people a 40 hour week and weekends off. Or the impact of the 8 hour workday. We are still learning the impacts today. We should probably never change things because we will never stop learning new things .

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u/DingbattheGreat 14d ago

Absolutely. Also, even if it became a “standard”, just like now, there are many jobs and businesses that would not necessarily benefit.

4 day work weeks isnt anything new. Just not widely practiced. I had a job in the 1990’s working for a field survey company that was 4-10 hour days.

Being a contractor allows more schedule control than say, police or daycares, I suppose.

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u/Raichu4u 14d ago

The work week in question in this study isn't 4 10's, it's 4 8's

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u/TitanofBravos 14d ago Eureka!

Heres a concern that I seldom see addressed in these conversations; Wouldnt a 4 day work week inherently increase economic stratification?

While I can potentially see a 4 day work week not resulting in lost productivity in certain white collar industries, I fail to see how this is true in most blue collar settings. When you say you can cut back 20% of your work hours and see no lost productivity then thats telling me you have a rather inefficient work week. So yeah, cut out a few non-value adding meetings a week, spend a little less time around the water cooler or browsing reddit and viola, no lost productivity.

But most blue collar industries have been employing efficency experts for well over a century now. My industry, home building, was fairly late on the scientification of the industry but even here we have been embracing evidence based practices and polices since the post-war period. So how are my roofers, who are paid by the amount they install, supposed to install the same amount of shingles in 20% less time? Are we going to speed up factory production lines by 20% to crank out the same amount of product in less time? Will your Chipotle worker suddenly grow a third hand so he can ring up your order while hes still wrapping your burrito with the other two?

Im not opposed to a 4 day work week. But I think we are doing ourselves a great disservice if we pretend there are no downsides to doing so. Cutting hourly workers hours by 20% comes with real world consequences in an efficient industry. We are talking about a decline in income for hourly workers, along with the goods and services they provide becoming more expensive. Its simply a matter of degree to which side bears the bigger burden of that 20% decrease in work time.

Becoming more material "poor" as a society in exchange for less hours worked is a trade-off that many are more then happy to make. But we cant have an honest conversation about what we as a society value if we are not willing to be truthful about the tradeoffs.

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u/dust4ngel 14d ago

thats telling me you have a rather inefficient work week

if you work in an office, the amount of waste is comically astronomical. "hey did you guys go to the all-hands meetings about the new format for all-hands meetings? let's set up a meeting to discuss. also i notice that some people haven't been logging time codes with their hours, even though we're all on salary so the number of hours is irrelevant. let's allocate up to five hours a week cataloging where our hours are going because these metrics are someone's performance goals for the year."

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u/TheBowlofBeans 14d ago

I literally mute my mic and play video games during my meetings

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u/SomnolentDragon 14d ago

Me too. 99% of the time I don't need to be there at all, it's so frustrating.

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u/detectiveDollar 14d ago

Holy fuck I hate logging time codes and having to request more hours when you run low for projects. It's freaking stressful.

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u/BortTheThrillho 14d ago

Literally why I find so many complaints about office jobs being so difficult so laughable. I have an accountant friend who tries to commiserate with me about long hours. Like, no man, I’ve worked 12 hours of physical labor without a lunch break, you play 4 hours of elden ring in company time a day and just shoot off an email if one comes through. But on Reddit with mostly office workers, their jobs are oh so tough and unfair, even if you sit on your phone half the day.

That said, I do love my job, it’s really fun and always interests people, and it’s getting paid for my life long passion. Plus I still stay in shape while all the office worker friends quickly get pudgier and more unhealthy through the years, so gives and takes I suppose.

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u/nugood2do 14d ago

I work a office job and I'm learning carpentry and home repair on the side with my dad.

I know this is taboo for some people to hear, but yea, my office job work doesn't compare to my physical labor work in the slightest. In my office, I'm running numbers, reviewing papers, and zoning out in meeting in an air conditioned room.

With my side hustle/hobby, I'm outside in the South Carolina summer swamp air cutting down trees, removing an old, heavy, sewage, pipe from under my house, and running numbers in my head on the spot to make sure my cuts and measurements are correct.

I love learning carpentry and home repair and I love my office job, but the outdoor work is way more physical and mentally tiring than my office job could ever be.

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u/_endymion 14d ago edited 14d ago

Thank you. These are my feelings exactly about my industry, healthcare. We need the same number of people to be working every weekday. Every day, for nurses and doctors. The workload is too much for us to have 20% less staff. It’s already too much.

I work for a public healthcare system, i.e., the government (via taxes) pays for, and in some ways rations, healthcare.

So do healthcare costs increase 20%? In a public healthcare system. Or do healthcare workers take a 20% per hour pay cut relative to an office worker? That hardly incentivizes people to work in / stay in healthcare. And most areas need healthcare workers desperately. I’d be out in a minute if all of a sudden office workers are paid 20% more per hour than me, when healthcare workers are already underpaid IMO.

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u/InevitableTune7352 14d ago

I could be wrong but don’t many nurses at hospitals work 10 hour shifts and have 3 day weekends? Not saying that it’s easier at all, just that they seem to be ahead of the game in terms of work week reform.

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u/FisforFAKE 13d ago edited 13d ago

Assuming that departments are fully staffed, that’s how it’s supposed to work. In reality, what happens is people get stuck working 60 hours a week because they have to work extra days.

There’s also another interesting thing going on in Healthcare right now where because of the staffing problem, people are getting burnt out and leaving their jobs and entering the travel force where they get to be much more selective with their schedules and are compensated for it much more significantly. Their schedules are backed up by contracts too which is a huge plus. Another interesting angle of this is that it sort of just exacerbates the problem of staffing issues across the country in Healthcare because that travel money is hard to compete against if you’re a Hospital system trying to get people signed on full time for the long term.

Generational retirements and the many facets of the pandemic are obviously a big factor too.

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u/Intelligent_Moose_48 14d ago

But you are thinking of this in terms of the “job creators”. The whole entire point is that if individuals work fewer hours, and yet the same amount of work remains, more people need to be hired. You get more coworkers, you get more time off, more jobs are created.

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u/_oscilloscope 14d ago

I don't know about where you're from. But I firmly believe that in the U.S. patients die because of tired doctors and nurses.

There aren't enough healthcare professionals, which to me says the free market should be correcting this, but probably isn't because of unforseen reasons.

No one wants to work in healthcare because there is no work life balance. So very few train to go into healthcare. But there's no work-life balance so they burn out and leave the industry. So the industry is chronically understaffed. Which leads to no work-life balance.

We need to train up way more healthcare professionals. We need to pay them even more, and then we need to give them better work-life balance. Then people won't burn out.

I firmly believe if we did this there would be more healthcare available to people, better patient outcomes, and healthcare in general would become less expensive because we wouldn't be spending so much money digging ourselves out of problems and mistakes.

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u/peterhalburt33 14d ago edited 14d ago

I think you raise a good but often ignored point here: many white collar jobs have ineffective metrics for measuring productivity, and it seems that the current solution is to just look the other way and pretend that we are actually somehow able to measure productivity and effectiveness of individual workers. While you can tangibly measure the amount of shingles that get installed in a day, or widgets that get built in an hour, how do you measure the productivity of e.g. a coder? Lines of code? Many of the best coders actually get rid of unnecessary code and simplify things, so that’s not a good metric. You also can’t measure the economic impact of a single office worker on the entire organization; with the amount of layers between any worker and the customer the amount of noise prevents any external metric from being a good measure of any single worker.

That means that poor substitute metrics end up being used to measure real productivity (and the rest depends on how much your boss likes you as a person). As a result you have white collar workers who might, in an average week, do 5 total productive hours of work (I’ve definitely been there before), but somehow need to justify their existence by hacking their KPIs (oh yes sir, boss, I doubled our division’s Weissman score by 3 fold since I joined! What’s a Weissman score? Well it’s the ratio of Schrute bucks to Stanley nickels)

All this to say, while construction, service and medical workers are necessary, many white collar jobs are actually complete and total BS and would be able to survive fine if their employees worked a tenth as much (hope people don’t take this the wrong way, but it is delusional to think e.g. Google would suffer if a junior software engineer just took off for a week, even if they didn’t tell anyone). Hell, outside of broad strokes, I can’t tell you what any one single employee does in a given day at my job.

BTW, David Graeber’s “Bulls*** jobs” is a great book about exactly this subject, in which he recounts an example of a German military contractor whose sole job was to physically drive between military bases and transfer computerized media because a network transfer was deemed insecure.

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u/SolomonBlack 14d ago

BTW, David Graeber’s “Bulls*** jobs” is a great book about exactly this subject, in which he recounts an example of a German military contractor whose sole job was to physically drive between military bases and transfer computerized media because a network transfer was deemed insecure.

For large transfers of data that is actually a highly defensible practice from an efficiency's standpoint because the bandwidth of physical media is so much higher.

For security purposes it also isn't technically wrong but more likely falters because either internet access is still used somewhere and needs security that could 'just' be more broadly applied, and/or the risks direct betrayal or social engineering make cracking the system more/less irrelevant.

(Otherwise a great post)

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u/CPF-Minion 14d ago

I think the answer is businesses need to take the burden of cost on this one. You need more workers to accommodate the mandated rest periods.

Same as what companies had to do when slavery was abolished and workers rights started appearing in the Industrial Revolution.

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u/cinnamintdown 14d ago

How does this work for fast food workers, repairmen, and the like where the work to be done is spread over days and it is impossible to do tomorrow work today? asking for a friend

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u/Nick_Gio 14d ago

That's the neat part, it doesn't!

Hard for white collared IT reddit to understand that.

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u/return2ozma 14d ago

Schedule workers to cover the days off for each other.

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u/_endymion 14d ago

So, for me, I work in healthcare. Allied health, public healthcare system. I work M-F, 8-430. We need every hand on deck. If I was given an extra day off, they would have to pay for someone to cover, i.e., an extra shift. And the same for everyone. So, effectively, the cost of healthcare wages increases 20%. Healthcare is already the single biggest line item in most government budgets (with public healthcare).

Anyone who increased health spending that much would be voted out. Here in Canada at least.

I absolutely love the idea, but I don’t see how it applies to many industries, especially healthcare. It increases costs. And if healthcare doesn’t get the four day work week, while other industries do, healthcare workers get a 20% per hour pay cut relative to those other industries. Wouldn’t this disincentivize people from working in healthcare? At exactly the time when we need people incentivized to go into healthcare. I know if the 4 day workweek became widespread in other industries, I’d immediately be jumping ship.

I’m curious your thoughts on this, and how such a system can be implemented while maintaining staffing levels per day.

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u/RealD20 14d ago

So do the hourly workers just earn less per week then? You arent going to see employers magically bump wages up to accomodate when we cant even offer living wages.

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u/return2ozma 14d ago

If they want to keep their workers, yes they would need to pay more

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u/Orleanian 14d ago

I think the simplest response is that it's not feasible for hourly wage workers. If cut down to 32 hours per week, they'll only be paid 32 hours per week, and additional employees will have to be brought in to cover the schedule gap.

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u/ThePezster 14d ago

It doesn't this is just another way to attempt to improve the wellbeing of workers without improving the conditions for anyone but office workers hahaha

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u/Simon_Jester88 14d ago

I feel like this study is overlooking the construction and maintenance fields. Different types of work demand different schedules so compensation might get weird.

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u/DoctorWaluigiTime 14d ago

No study like this will ever claim "yes this is suitable for all fields and all types of work."

And those exceptions don't make the study any less valuable, nor does it mean a ton of jobs can suffice on a 4 day work week.

Remember that we used to not have 40 hours / 2 days off as a standard. It used to be "lol you work until I say you can go."

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u/Top-Fox-3171 13d ago

This is painfully obvious to anyone who has worked an office job. You're only working 30-60% of the time anyway so why stretch it across 5 days?

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u/GooodLooks 14d ago

I think any company wants to do this should be able to do it based on jobs and responsibilities. Let the companies figure it out with their employees. No categorical government regulations one way or another. 😊

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u/CHANCE110R 14d ago

Tbf, it's time, and it's necessary.

Race to the bottom means work stress, burnout, and depression as a result of work is at an all time high.

Also, now we've progressed to women having careers, both parties of a relationship are working all the time which means nobody is home doing housework through the day. Both parties then giving all their spare time to attend to house upkeep. the worst part due to inflation and cost of living skyrocketing, even with dual income it's barely enough to get by these days so hiring a cleaner in lieu of is usually unaffordable either.

Please don't misconstrue this as antiquated 'women shouldn't work'. It's an amazing thing for autonomy and choice. It's unfair on women as much (if not more so) as anyone that dual income, careers, and juggling life is becoming so unmanageable.

All I mean is, more people are working and more hours than before, spare time is devoted to household maintenance, and nothing left to enjoy.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

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u/HereComesBullet68 14d ago

The psychology of things like this is fascinating. We all know that work is done at a pace to fit the artificially allotted time frame. I can get my job done in a couple hours a day, yet I have to sit at my desk and be available during the ridiculous 8 hour period.

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u/Milky-Toast69 14d ago

Most jobs are not this way. Most jobs have experts looking over and analyzing how to squeeze as much productivity out of their workers so there’s as little down time as possible.

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u/Flewrider2 14d ago

Don't know I worked in some big companies and most of the time people are drinking coffee or smoking

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u/dar24601 14d ago

The big thing nobody talking about is that in these studies the partipants were paid same as if working 5-day week. No way corporations are going to pay workers same amount for 4-day week. Be it waged or benefits something is going get cut back

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u/earwig20 14d ago edited 14d ago

If they do pay the same for working 4 days, will it possible to keep working 5 but for 20% extra?

Edit: If 4 days is the new full time, then 5 days is 25% extra

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u/FrugalOnion 14d ago

I'm all for working less, but I have a hard time believing it's more productive for most companies. This article's evidence is a likert5 survey response from a few dozen companies, not actual productivity stats. Seems more about supporting a movement rather than hard science imo.

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u/PastyPilgrim 14d ago

It might come down to who/what owns the productivity of a particular job. For example, if you work on a factory line or a cash register, then your productivity is already outside of your control since it's owned by whatever process you are overseeing. Being better rested can't really affect your productivity when your productivity is tied to the speed of a conveyor belt or volume of customers. Though I would expect it to have an affect on the quality of your work which could have secondary effects on productivity and costs (e.g. an improvement in order accuracy, a reduction in QA issues for a factory worker, etc.).

For jobs where a worker owns most of their own productivity then the state of the worker should have a much greater effect on the immediate productivity results.

Shorter work weeks seem to be really great for many reasons though. You get happier workers (which may have effects on productivity, quality, creativity, etc.), potentially lower costs (e.g. fewer mistakes and less corner cutting), and potentially it could be great for the economy since a shorter work week could allow for more employees (e.g. a 7-day job broken more evenly in half for full pay could sustain two employees better than one with a more disproportionate split).

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u/Octavale 14d ago

I didn’t read the article but is it a rotation of positions/people meaning the actual business is open 5 days, 6 days, 7 days (accordingly) and shifts/positions are covered by rotating personnel?

I could see how that would be a huge bump in overall productivity - especially in America where people are just burnt out on 40hr grind.

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u/gridlock489 14d ago edited 14d ago

The US (and most of the developed West) is a service and information economy—but we set public policy as if the average worker is manufacturing Widgets on an assembly line, and speak as if maximizing the number of Widgets is the ultimate social good since it can be cleanly summarized and argued for

The four day work week isn't about productivity, really—that's just the only conversation that is allowed most places. We have a lot of graphs that say society is producing the outputs that are considered desirable, so anything that changes the inputs required is scrutinized militantly. If well-being and prosperity has to be captured by Hard Science, then we will never experience the knock-on effects of a happier, less stressed, more able-to-consume population

It’s almost 2023 and the only allowable changes are adjustments around the margins to a system that doesn't have its priorities straight. I think that's a shame, personally, because we've tried the business' way and it isn't working out too great for most people

I get that this is the Economics subreddit, but even here, it can't always be about math—because that is reductive, too

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u/FrugalOnion 14d ago

Sure, I agree with all that. But the article headline says "no loss in productivity", so that's why I focused on productivity.

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u/achughes 14d ago

If someone is just crunching on work I can see how the one day break can give people work harder over a shorter amount of time. At the same time I’ve tried to coordinate with a company on a 4 day schedule and it’s a pain when you can’t get something done because the other company has their day off.

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u/Kidd5 14d ago

It's not about solely productivity though. They aren't doing this because they were just after the bottom line. It's about maintaining the same level of productivity or maybe even reaching higher level while also giving the people more time to enjoy life.

It's worth a shot. But it will never happen here in the US. Motherfuckers are way too greedy for that. You can't have indentured servants in the system only working four days a week. That's a recipe for disaster for our faceless corporate overlords.

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u/Itchy_Horse 14d ago

The four day work week sounds amazing. But I have absolutely no faith in the western world allowing it. If they do, we'll be forced to make up the lost hours by working 10 hour days, or just dropping our pay by 20%. Corporations are not going to allow that to stand.

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u/DJCaldow 14d ago

Every day I see people who benefitted from the salaries & prices of 50 years ago trying desperately to fix the damage a lifetime of 9-5 Mon-Fri has done to their bodies. Time & especially the time to take care of ourselves should be the most important currency and bargaining chip we have. Tell your unions to fight for it.

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u/CanYouPleaseChill 14d ago

If employees know that a successful experimental result will likely lead to a 4-day policy, then they'll be inclined to work harder than normal during the experimental period to ensure the experiment is a resounding success. Given this incentive, along with the fact that many office workers don't actually work 40 hours a week anyway, it's not a surprise that productivity levels can be maintained or increased with a 4-day week.

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u/DjLeWe78 13d ago

Who would of thought that people would work harder for a short amount of time to get an extra day off in the long run !!!

A proper test would be to measure this with a company that isn’t on a 4DW trial but one that has been doing this 1-2 years properly.

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u/LowHatLarry 14d ago

Now companies will be testing 4 day work weeks with a 20% paycut to account for the day that isn't spent working! No but really I hope 4 day work weeks catch on without lower wages.

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u/Elryc35 14d ago

Riddle me this, Batman: why is it that whenever big companies cut part of their workforce (and thus indirectly reduce working hours), but say it won't reduce their productivity because of 'operational improvements', 'technological solutions', and 'increased workplace efficiency' no one questions it, but when a company directly reduces working hours, everyone questions how they'll maintain productivity?

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u/lumpialarry 14d ago

I don't know about other industries, but in my industry, when a company cuts its work force, its because there's less work for that work force to do because of an industry-wide downturn.

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u/Flaky-Illustrator-52 14d ago

Mythical man month

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u/Terror-Of-Demons 14d ago

Totally dependant on the industry and thats always looked over.

Office work? Sure, 5 days of work can be condensed into 4 by just trimming the wasted time out of your day because you know you'll have that whole extra day anyway.

Working construction? Warehouse? Scrapyard?? Losing a whole day would tank our productivity, thats a whole day of people bringing in material, of our operators processing and moving metal, of our warehouse packaging material.

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u/fondledbydolphins 14d ago

Interested in how you would control for the fact that people who are participating in a 4 day work week study / business are comparing their current situation to either previous experience with a 5 day work week or a 5 day work week they experience vicariously through the experiences of people they socialize with - therefore working harder than they might in a world where everyone has a 4 day work week and this isn't something to cherish / work harder to earn / maintain.

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u/FriedDickMan 14d ago

It’s an absolute travesty that they were projecting increasing salaries for the everyday working man And a four day work week but here we are today and -gestures vaguely around at everything- look at what we have instead. Despicable.

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u/Buck_Thorn 14d ago

75% of all work is done on Wednesday anyway. Nobody works on Mondays or Fridays, Tuesday is for warming up, and Thursday is for cooling down.

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u/Penteu 14d ago

Productivity and production are not the same, I can have the same productivity working 8 hours for 1 day or 40 hours for 5 days, but production will be 1/5. To effectively and efficiently work, the 4-day week would have to either see an increase in daily hours or produce more per hour to keep wages at the same level. If none of those increase, it will hurt production, thus increasing prices and leading to a loss of purchasing power.

So, in these terms, keeping the same level of productivity and the same wage working 8 hours less is a failure, not a success, but it is so subtle we will only see the effects on the long term.

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u/krom0025 13d ago

Presenteeism is a big problem in work places. Humans can only work and concentrate on things for so long. Most people who have to work all day, everyday spend about half their day wasting time at work. But management is lazy and doesn't want to actually judge people by the work they do, so instead they just keep the "butts in seats" mentality.

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u/Rindrago 14d ago

The stupid thing is though, if we worked 3 days on at 9hrs and two days off, then in one pay period (14 days) you will have put in 81 hours at work, and gained a whole day off. The five day calendar really is supreme.

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u/Over_It_Mom 14d ago

We don't get paid for our productivity most of the time we get paid hourly and that's why this will never work. Most Americans already work seven days a week.

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u/Tenter5 14d ago

Definitely depends on the job. If all you gotta do that week is make sure the spreadsheet is good then 4 days is probably a appropriate amount of time. If the job is to move 1000 boxes from point A to point B then you may definitely need that fifth day to do it. It’s all relative.

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