Will the U.S. move toward a 4-day workweek? 'I do think it could happen,' says sociologist

"The time may be ripe for work redesigns in where, when, and how work is done."


The pandemic has spurred other countries to explore the viability of a four-day workweek. In May 2020, New Zealand's prime minister mentioned the possibility in a Facebook Live video. More recently, a majority of companies in Iceland are moving toward a four-day week, policymakers in Japan unveiled plans to push employers toward one, and Spain is launching a three-year, 32-hour workweek experiment. 

Could the idea take off in the U.S.? "I do think it could happen," says Phyllis Moen, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota. "Employees are rethinking their lives after Covid-19 — the time may be ripe for work redesigns in where, when, and how work is done."

As U.S. workers demand more flexibility, tech companies like Kickstarter, Buffer, and Wildbit are planning to test a four-day week for the same pay as soon as next year. "I fundamentally believe that something like this would allow us to be more potent as a group," Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan told CNBC.

While the effort is concentrated in tech for now, experts predict a larger shift in this direction. "It has been very rapid, from a culture that legitimized overwork and burnout to one that is critical of it," Juliet B. Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College, told CNBC.

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Video by Courtney Stith

Empirical evidence of the four-day workweek's success will likely be a key factor in its adoption. Companies in New Zealand and Japan tested out the idea in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and found that productivity and employee well-being increased. And Iceland's two recent trials were "an overwhelming success."

If you'd like to bring up the idea of a four-day workweek — or any type of flexibility — with your employer, "it's important to be respectful and come in with solutions and reasoning as to why" you think it would be a benefit to the company, the senior manager of HR operations at CareerBuilder previously told Grow.

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