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Reduced Work Week and Productivity

A recent global study by nonprofit 4 Day Week Global found that participants in a 32-hour reduced work week experiment were very pleased with the results.

Employees were paid their normal 40-hour pay, but they only had to work 32 hours each week.  While not all participants responded in the follow-up survey, employees who did rated the experience very highly, as did the companies they worked for.

Video Spotlight:  

This post is based on the CNN article, Global 4-day week pilot was a huge success, organizers say, by Anna Cooban, November 30, 2022; the Fox Business article, Four-day work week trend gaining popularity as companies report strong productivity levels, by Daniella Genovese, December 1, 2022; and the YouTube video in the Spotlight. Image source: Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

Discussion Questions:

1.  How did this change in working hours affect employees?  What benefits does it offer?

Guidance: Employees reported feeling more rested, less burned out, less stressed, and physically and mentally healthier.  Some researchers point to research that finds that working fewer hours has positive health benefits, while the WHO and ILO cite corresponding research linking heart disease and stroke with longer work hours.

2. What impact has the pandemic had on work-life balance?

Guidance: Many workers became used to more flexible work schedules during the pandemic, and some do not want to return to the 40-hour office grind.  While being on-site at work may once again be necessary, some workers have come to value the benefits that come from being able to be at home or with family more often during the week.  Giving the current challenge companies are having in finding and keeping skilled workers, this may be another incentive that can be offered to attract new talent.

3. How did the reduced work week affect the companies that tried it?  Did productivity or overall performance decrease?

Guidance: The study reports higher revenue and fewer employee absences and sick days during the time of the study.  In some instances, employers found ways to reduce unnecessary meetings and other office time wasters so that the hours spent at work were spent more productively.

Employees did not feel that they had to work faster, but rather that they were better utilizing the hours they were in the office.  Thus, some changes in job design or office culture may have taken place to support the reduced work week.

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