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A four-day work week does not guarantee a three-day weekend

A California bill that would reduce the work week to 32 hours has raised hopes among employees that they will have more time away from work, but business management experts say that is not necessarily the case.

Proponents of a four-day workweek argue that the same amount of work could be done in a shorter time, but some warn that the stress of having to be more productive could counteract the benefits of a shorter workweek or simply move employees into a fifth day of telecommuting.

The bill currently making its way through the California state legislature would move non-union hourly workers at large corporations to a 32-hour week with no pay cut.

“There is this hope that having a four-day working week will lead to greater job satisfaction, better work-life balance – especially having longer weekends and leave that allows for travel – and less travel,” said university professor Oliver Schilke. Department of Management and Organizations at the University of Arizona, said Newsweek.

“But on the cost side, even if they reduce the number of [work] hours, there could always be a perceived pressure to get things done in less time,” Schilke continued. “The workload could still be sort of the same, but the number of hours delivered could be less, which actually increases the pressure and stress for the employees, quite significantly.”

A four-day work week would also benefit some employees more than others.

Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, explained that those who work in customer service or nursing would be among the group for whom a shortened workweek would have the most impact. because their work cannot be done remotely. So an extra day off would really equal one day off.

“It makes sense for tasks where people can’t do the work remotely,” Cappelli said. Newsweek. “It’s beneficial for employees who can do something completely different on that fifth day, like going away for a long weekend.”

A bill currently being considered by the California state legislature would move non-union hourly workers at large corporations from a 40-hour work week to a 32-hour work week with no reduction in pay. A U.S. Postal Service employee sorts packages for distribution inside the Los Angeles Mail Processing and Distribution Center on November 22, 2021 in Los Angeles.
Mario Tama/Getty

In comparison, exempt employees — who do not receive overtime pay or are not eligible for minimum wage — have the option of working from home. Office workers are usually assigned a set amount of work, most of which do not require employees to be in the same physical space to do it.

So a four-day work week for these employees would mean that they only have to be in the office four days a week, but that would not necessarily mean that they will only work four days.

“If the work can only be done onsite, like nursing, that effectively means a four-day week. Otherwise, that doesn’t mean your job will only be four days,” Cappelli said.

“Virtually all the interest in this topic is in exempt employees, who don’t have regular hours anyway. So the real question is whether the 4-day week is another way of saying work from home the fifth day,” he added.

California would not be the first to adopt a 4-day work week. Countries like Iceland and companies like Microsoft have already started testing a shortened workweek and reported an increase in productivity. But these findings could be premature.

Schilke said that while employees may be eager to get more done in four days to have a longer weekend, that feeling could crumble over time.

“It can be beneficial and motivating in the short term to have this pressure of, ‘Oh, if I only work four days, I better be worth it and put in a lot of effort,'” he said. -he explains. “But it could really wear people down in the longer term. Increased pressure to get things done in the limited time they have could be very taxing and counteract that motivational aspect of things.”

A shortened work week could also lead to layoffs, since one of the downsides for employers would be increased labor costs. Because the California bill would keep pay at a similar rate while shortening the workweek, it would mathematically result in a higher hourly wage.

Schilke said employers may also fear a drop in customer satisfaction if fewer employees are available to respond to concerns.

While Cappelli said a four-day work week could be meaningful for some employees, such as those in retail, “other arrangements would be much easier on the employer and have more benefits for more employees. ’employees”.


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