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Here's what research shows about 4-day workweeks

Studies show more pros than cons -- but that could be because of the sources.

WASHINGTON — This week we told you about how a proposal in Maryland would make way for a four-day workweek: it may sounds good in theory, but what do we actually know about the pros and cons?


What does research show about a 4-day workweek?



Though evidence seems mostly positive, the total hours worked still matters--and the sources have their own biases.


We checked out a few studies actually researching the impacts of a shortened, workweek. Off the top we’ll acknowledge–one of these is done by the 4 Day Week Global Foundation -- they’re very much for it -- but still have some interesting insight to offer.

Last year, 27 companies switched to working four eight-hour days – a 32 hour workweek – for a six-month trial, with the expectation of maintaining the same levels of productivity.

Researchers found: it worked.

At the end of the trial, 25 had either decided to continue the abbreviated workweek or were planning to, pending a final decision. 

Companies rated the experience as overwhelmingly positive, and over the six month trial, revenues grew an average of 8%. 

Compared to revenues the year before, companies saw an average of 38% growth.

So, the four-day week worked for companies: What about employees?

According to surveys, 97% wanted to keep the four-day structure. Results varied person to person, but on average, employees worked six hours less each week and worked less overtime.

They also reported feeling less stress, less burnout, increased job satisfaction, and higher self-rated work ability. 

Other benefits? Better physical and mental health, less anxiety, more exercise, better sleep, better work-life balance, better family dynamics, and increased life satisfaction.

But for some people, like hourly workers, cutting down to 32 hour workweeks isn’t feasible. They need to get paid for 40 hours in a week. So what about the four, 10-hour workday model?

This study found that that can actually be problematic for employees, because working for 10 hours or more can lead to fatigue, and fatigue can lead to decline in productivity, and wear on mental health.

However, the study is from a company in New Zealand: here in the United States, many people work overtime anyway. The study recommends allowing employees to opt in to this kind of schedule if they’d want it.

There’s just not a lot of scientific or peer-reviewed research into this, but all points to consider if you're considering a schedule change.

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