NewslettersSign inAPP
spainSPAINargentinaARGENTINAchileCHILEcolombiaCOLOMBIAusaUSAmexicoMEXICOperuPERUlatin usaLATIN USAamericaAMERICA


32-hour workweek in California: who is for and against?

Two California Assembly members have introduced a bill to shorten the state’s legal workweek by eight hours for large companies, what do the experts say?

Two California Assembly members have introduced a bill to shorten the state’s legal workweek by eight hours for large companies, what do the experts say?

The pandemic has made over 47 million American reconsider their relationship with work, choosing to quit their jobs and seek greener pastures elsewhere. This mass upheaval in the workforce prompted two California lawmakers to propose a change to the Golden State’s workweek.

The idea is to reduce the current 40-hour workweek by eight hours for companies with over 500 employees. They and supporters say that it will increase productivity and profits while opponents call it a “job killer” creating an “untenable” situation for many businesses.

The idea of reducing the workweek in nothing new, nor radical according to experts. Some countries and companies have already been experimenting with a four-day workweek. So what have the results been?

Also see:

Economists argue for four-day workweek

“In the 1920s and 1930s, there were actually major capitalist entrepreneurs who discovered that if you shorten the working week, employees become more productive,” explained economist and historian Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for Realists, at Davos in 2019 on the benefits of a 32-hour workweek. He gave the example of Henry Ford who found that when he reduced emplyees’ hours from 60 to 40 per week that they became more productive.

That was in 1920, and allowed him to run his factories 24 hours a day. Ten years later the British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that thanks to increased productivity, the average workweek would be just 15 hours “a hundred years hence.” Congress would enshrine the 40-hour workweek nationwide in 1940 and although the amount of time the average American worker put in on the job decreased by the 1980s, that prediction was a wee bit off.

In related news: Earned income tax credit up to $6,728

The reduction in hours didn’t come from shorter workweek, but instead from mandated leave time and more vacation. However, by 2007, Americans were working on average almost 200 hours more per year than three decades earlier.

What does the data say about a 32-hour workweek?

“I think we have some good experiments showing that if you reduce work hours, people are able to focus their attention more effectively, they end up producing just as much, often with higher quality and creativity,” Adam Grant, a psychologist from the Wharton School in Pennsylvania, said at the 2019 World Economic Forum. “They are also more loyal to the organizations that are willing to give them the flexibility to care about their lives outside of work.”

This has been backed up by data and real-world experiments, with a number of companies giving the four-day workweek a try. Similar to what the two California Assembly members are proposing, Laurent de la Clergerie, boss of French company LDLC, decided to cut the workweek for his roughly 1,000 employees without lowering their pay. Some people thought he was “crazy” but in the worst-case scenario, he figured it would cost his company $1.6 million and was “a manageable risk.” Although it wasn’t the only factor, a year after the change, turnover ended up increasing by $220 million.

Similar success with reducing the workweek have been experienced around the globe from Iceland to New Zealand. A trial program in Iceland was such an “overwhelming success” that now 86 percent of the nation’s workforce are either now working fewer hours or in the process of reducing their workweek.

However, it hasn’t worked out for everyone, as was the case for Treehouse, an online education company based in Oregon. Ryan Carson, founder and CEO of the company, implemented two radical ideas for his company, getting rid of the boss and reducing the workweek to four days. Both experiments have since been binned.

In an interview with GrowthLab he said of the 32-hour workweek, “It created this lack of work ethic in me that was fundamentally detrimental.” He says he now works a 62-hour workweek, but separates his work and home life.


To be able to comment you must be registered and logged in. Forgot password?