California is now set to become the first American state to establish a 32-hour workweek. Bill AB 2932 is currently being reviewed by the Labor and Employment Committee — and it’s largely inspired by the major bids for employee welfare introduced by the Great Resignation. If passed, it’s positioned to revolutionize the way we think about work in the modern age. Here’s why.
Behind the concept
The 32-hour — or 4-day — workweek shortens the conventional workweek by a day without reducing anyone’s pay or benefits. Proponents argue that this works because technological advancements have significantly reduced the average workload. The structure of the 32-hour workweek isn’t necessarily a Monday-to-Thursday affair, either. Employers can keep switching up which day of the week to forego or give employees the option to choose on their own.
The 5-day workweek is a fairly recent invention. Until the 1920s, people worked 18 hours a day and 6 days a week. In 1926, the Ford Motor Company helped cement the 8-hour 5-day workweek. This concession was largely orchestrated by the efforts of labor unions worldwide. Today, this phenomenon is set to repeat itself — and it’s already making waves outside the US.
In 2015, Iceland tested the 4-day workweek in the largest trial of its kind to date. The study met astounding success, and today 90% of Iceland’s working population enjoy reduced workweeks. Other countries welcoming the concept include Sweden, Spain, Japan, Germany, New Zealand, Belgium, and the UK. If California follows suit, there are plenty of findings that can be used to refine and enhance its effectiveness — and we’re bound to see some of the benefits discussed below.
Benefits we might see in California
An enhanced work-life balance
One of the more obvious benefits will be more time spent outside of work. Employees will be able to do errands, spend more time with friends and family, and indulge in hobbies — all while having an extra day to simply recover from work and recharge themselves for the week ahead.
Improved health and wellness
With just one extra day of rest, employees can finally honor those doctor’s appointments without eating up their paid leave — and the additional time for recreation can help bolster mental health, as well. That’s why workforce transformation expert LHH believes that it could be the silver bullet for burnout. Employees with more flexibility over their hours can better manage the workloads given by employers.
There’s something in the 32-hour workweek for businesses, as well. Less time spent at the office means less money is spent on rent, utilities, and office supplies. This is especially true for companies that provide additional facilities like cafeterias. Research from experts at The Conversation conclude that businesses can save roughly $15 billion by transitioning to a reduced workweek.
Better employee recruitment, productivity, and retention
This is probably the most compelling reason for businesses to make the switch. With a 32-hour workweek, employers can attract the attention of the best talent in the job market, who now prefer flexible work arrangements. Thanks to better health and an improved work-life balance, employees are subsequently more productive and can create better-quality output — and happier employees are less likely to leave their jobs.
California is about to set a revolutionary precedent that can change the way we approach work — and evidence outside the US shows that we should consider welcoming this change with open arms. For more on the latest business news, feel free to browse our business category.