A worldwide effort was launched by 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit associated with the University of Oxford, that helps companies execute and measure the impact of a four-day workweek. The nonprofit calls this a 100-80-100 model, wherein workers receive 100% of their pay for 80% of the time, while maintaining 100% productivity.

In California, there is a proposed bill, AB-2932, that aims to formally change the workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours in the state. This bill would amend Section 510 of the California Labor Code. AB-2932 was authored by Assembly Members Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Evan Low (D-San Jose). The bill was introduced in February 2022 and was referred to the Committee on Labor and Employment on March 24, 2022. The bill has not gone to a vote yet, and it is not clear at this stage whether it would pass as written.

Existing law defines the “workweek” and requires that work in excess of 40 hours in a workweek be compensated at a rate of at least 1 ½ times the employee’s regular rate of pay, subject to certain exceptions.[1] AB-2932 would instead require that work in excess of 32 hours in a workweek be compensated at the rate of no less than 1 ½ time the employee’s regular rate of pay. The bill would require the compensation rate of pay at 32 hours to reflect the previous compensation rate at 40 hours.

This bill may be controversial, and some employers may instinctively think it is not a good thing. However, studies worldwide have shown that a shortened workweek can actually boost productivity. Some of the pros of the shorter workweek include: more employee energy at work, productivity boosts, flexibility in work schedules and personal lives, less burnout from work, and more time for personal development. The data thus far is not robust, as the concept of a shorter workweek is relatively new, and the trials have been conducted with relatively small populations.

A pair of trials covering 1.3% of the Icelandic workforce revealed that cutting weekly hours led to better employee wellbeing and less stress, while productivity either remained the same or improved. In 2019 and 2020, following the trials, a historic amount of contracts guaranteeing shorter working hours in Iceland were signed between trade unions and their main negotiation partners, such as the Icelandic Government.[2] As of June 2021, 86% of Icelandic workers have the right to ask to work shorter works or actually do work shorter weeks. In New Zealand, one company tested a four-day workweek and announced a 20% boost in productivity in 2018. In the United Kingdom, 70 companies recently started a four-day workweek pilot, with no loss of pay, that will run for 6 months. Researchers will measure the trial’s impact on productivity in the business and the wellbeing of its workers, as well as the impact on the environment and gender equality.

Beyond productivity boosts, perhaps a shortened workweek would also give employers value in terms of increased ability to attract and retain employees. On the other hand, anticipated objections to California’s reduced workweek bill include scheduling challenges that employers may come to face, a greater sense of urgency at work, and the fact that not all jobs can be done in shorter shifts.

We will continue to monitor and report on developments in this area.

[1] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB2932 

[2] https://autonomy.work/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/ICELAND_4DW.pdf

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