Why US companies are weighing options of a 4-day workweek - Hindustan Times
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Why US companies are weighing options of a 4-day workweek

Apr 13, 2024 10:52 AM IST

A look into how several US companies are testing four-day workweeks to combat employee burnout and improve well-being.

An absent motivation is the main sign of burnout in the workers. As a result of that, some companies are discussing the possibility of shortening the workweeks.

An employee works at a thermal power plant. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko(REUTERS)
An employee works at a thermal power plant. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko(REUTERS)

Albeit a few businesses willing to undertake a four-day workweek, the onset of AI technology such as ChatGpt and Google Gemini could, perhaps, speed the shift.

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The latest survey conducted by Tech.co involving 1,000 U.S.-based business CEOs provided insight showing that companies with more AI history would be almost 2 times more open to opting for a four-day workweek than those that were not.

Many employees today grapple with feelings of being overburdened and burnout in their roles. Addressing this issue, Paul Knopp, the chair and CEO of KPMG US, expressed to CNN, “We are all working to figure out what is optimal, and we will continue to experiment and pivot.”

A majority of the workforce echoes the sentiment for a reduced workweek. According to a Gallup poll, a whopping 77% of American workers believe that a four-day workweek, even if it still encompasses 40 hours, would positively influence their well-being. Within this group, nearly half anticipate an “extremely positive” impact.

Encouragingly, empirical studies from both the United States and Europe have demonstrated that a four-day workweek can indeed enhance employee's work-life balance.

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However, Knopp cautions that “It’s way too early to declare the four-day work week part of the future. It’s still in the experimentation phase.”

The challenge for CEOs lies in understanding the nuances of how a shortened workweek would function, its effects on the mental and physical health of employees, and its potential to reduce operational costs by fostering healthier work environments.

Some organizations that have trialled shorter workweeks have found the sweet spot and are continuing with the practice. In the UK, the majority of companies that participated in the largest global experiment of a four-day workweek have maintained the shorter schedule a year later, with over half making it a permanent change.

The feasibility of a shorter workweek is not universal

Knopp pointed out that while it might be suitable for sectors like finance and marketing, it may not be practical in industries such as healthcare, media, and police, which are already facing labour shortages.

“My guess is a widespread four-day workweek could be years away – if ever. You’ll see companies quietly experimenting with it, but I don’t personally foresee widespread adoption in the next couple of years,” he speculates.

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Echoing a similar sentiment, billionaire investor Steve Cohen told CNBC his conviction that a four-day workweek is on the horizon, particularly with the advancements in AI technology. Cohen’s investment in a startup golf league is partly based on the belief that people will soon have more leisure time, particularly on Fridays.

“I think I would have done the golf investment anyway, because I think there’s a longer-term thought, but my belief is a four-day work week is coming,” he stated.

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