Employees are working fewer hours than they have in the past few years, research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. On average, employees worked 34.3 hours per week in May, down from a high of 35 hours in 2021, and even below the yearly average for 2019, the Wall Street Journal reports.
And, in an odd twist, a growing number of employers are just fine with this trend. If that’s not you–if you’re the kind of boss who expects your people to “give 110 percent” and work however many hours it takes to get the job done, you may soon start losing valuable team members to companies that place more value work-life balance.
The current employment trends are something of a mystery, economists say. In past years, a reduction in average hours worked meant employers didnt have enough work to go around. It was usually the first sign of a coming recession, because without enough work, employers would lay people off, spending would decrease, and the economy would spiral downward.
It looks like that’s not what’s happening this time, though. Instead of laying people off, employers are hiring more of them. In April, layoffs were at a lower level than in 2019, the last boom year before the pandemic. And total number of people on payrolls is up almost 1.6 million for 2023 so far.What the heck is going on here? There are three possible explanations…..
By Minda Zetlin
A four-day workweek is an arrangement where a workplace or place of education has its employees or students work or attend school, college or university over the course of four days per week rather than the more customary five.This arrangement can be a part of flexible working hours, and is sometimes used to cut costs.
The four-day week movement has grown considerably in recent years, with increasing numbers of businesses and organizations around the world trialing and moving permanently to a four-day working week of around 32 hours, with no less pay for workers.
Most of these businesses and organizations have found that a four-day week is a win-win for employees and employers, as trials have indicated that it leads to a better work-life balance, lower stress-levels, and increased productivity. An overwhelming majority of studies report that a four-day week leads to increased productivity and decreased stress.
The five-day workweek is a cultural norm; the result of early 1900s union advocacy to reduce the six-day workweek, which led to the invention of the weekend. In the early 20th century, when the average work week in developed nations was reduced from around 60 to 40 hours, it was expected that further decreases would occur over time.
In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes estimated that technological change and productivity improvements would make a 15-hour work week possible within a couple of generations. Other notable people throughout history to predict continuing reductions in working hours include United States (US) Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, British philosopher John Stuart Mill, and playwright George Bernard Shaw. In 1956, then US Vice President Richard Nixon promised Americans they would only have to work four days “in the not too distant future”.
Most advocates for a four-day working week argue for a fixed work schedule, resulting in shorter weeks (e.g. four 8-hour workdays for a total of 32 hours). This follows the 100-80-100 model: 100% pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain at least 100% productivity. However, some companies have introduced a four-day week based on a compressed work schedule: in the so-called “4/10 work week,” the widely used 40 weekly work hours are distributed across four days instead of five, resulting in 10 hour-long workdays (hence “four-ten”).
The resulting schedule may look different depending on the way the four-day week is implemented: in some variants Friday becomes the permanent non-working day, giving employees three consecutive days off over the weekend; some workplaces split the day off among the staff, with half taking Monday off and the other half taking Friday off; sometimes the day off is added in the middle of the week such as a Wednesday, allowing for a mid-week break; and, in some cases the day off changes from week to week, depending on the company’s current goals and workload.
Although it’s not an actual implementation of the four-day week, some companies encourage their employees to spend a portion of the paid time on work-related experiments or personal projects. Google’s “80/20 formula”—referring to the percentage of time spent on core and side projects, respectively—is an example of such policy….
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- Heck it was productive’: New Zealand company trials four-day work week …. but will it stick?”
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