The California Legislature is considering a bill that would reduce the workweek to four days for companies with more than 500 employees.
Why it matters: Though the legislation is a long shot, calls to shorten the workweek — a perennial fantasy for cube dwellers, factory workers and others — have grown louder and more prevalent since the pandemic showed us what’s possible in terms of alternative job arrangements.
- On the federal level, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced the 32-Hour Workweek Act last July, joined by other House progressives.
- In the private sector, companies from Toshiba to Shake Shack, Kickstarter and Shopify have been giving the four-day workweek a go. (Here’s a list of companies trying it.)
- A nonprofit called 4 Day Week Global is trying to propagate the practice. “This year, 38 companies in the U.S. and Canada are taking part in the program, with most running from April 1 through September,” per CNBC.
Driving the news: California’s AB2932 “would change the definition of a workweek from the current 40 hours to 32 hours for companies with more than 500 employees, and require overtime pay for making employees work longer than four full days a week,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
- Proponents say it will boost worker productivity, work/life balance and mental and physical health.
- Detractors say it’ll be a financial disaster, with companies having to fork up for more overtime and hire more people.
- Technically, companies could still make people report to work five days a week, but they would have to pay them extra after 32 hours on the clock.
The big picture: The four-day workweek has been catching on, although there are clearly places and settings where it will never fly.
- Belgium just started a trial of a four-day workweek — with employees being given “the right to disconnect” by ignoring emails from their bosses, etc.
- Other nations with shorter-workweek policies include Iceland, Japan, Scotland, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.
Private companies that have given it a whirl are finding it popular, perhaps not surprisingly.
- Bolt, a fintech startup, just adopted a four-day week permanently after a three-month trial and says job applications have shot up 30%.
- According to research by 4 Day Week Global: “63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a 4 day work week.”
Ryan Breslow is the CEO of Bolt. Screenshot: @theryanking/Twitter
What they’re saying: “After a nearly two-year-long pandemic that forced millions of people to explore remote work options, it’s safe to say that we can’t — and shouldn’t — simply go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working,” said Rep. Takano.
- California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, who co-introduced the California bill, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the legislation would make it easier for women to rejoin the workforce after taking a hiatus to raise children.
The other side: The California Chamber of Commerce calls the bill a “job killer,” and economists and others have lined up to call it a bad idea — one that would shift jobs to neighboring states like Nevada and Oregon.
- “This is terrifying,” Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University professor who studies work trends, told the Chronicle.
- “If they introduce this, businesses will reduce employment through hiring freezes and layoffs and slash pay by canceling the next [five] years of pay increases.”
The bottom line: While major legislation will be hard to pass, the practice is making selective inroads.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal