Last summer, California Congressman Mark Takano introduced legislation to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by lowering the maximum threshold for overtime compensation. Takano pointed to successful pilot programs from around the world, which resulted in more productivity, better work/life balance and heightened morale. He also alluded to potential benefits of cheaper health care premiums and lower operational costs for employers.
Business professionals love the idea: 42% said they would take a 20% pay cut to work only four days a week, according to a poll on Blind, an anonymous professional social network with more than five million users, predominantly from the tech and finance industries.
“The immediate consideration for me is uncovering potential diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) implications of the shift as it’s adopted,” Crystal Riley, vice president of Los Angeles-based HR tech firm Enspira and head of Enspira Startup Studio, told HRD. “Will this widen the wealth gap if certain companies don’t keep compensation constant when moving to the shift? What does this mean for frontline workers or certain labor trades where making the shift may be particularly nuanced when considering things like overtime pay? It can be fun and exciting to think about an innovative approach to work; however, making it inclusive is critical.”
Not ready to make the full transition, Enspira has dipped its proverbial toe in the water by instituting “Enspira Fridays,” in which employees have a half-day every other week. On every other Friday, half the day is reserved for focused work with no meetings scheduled, and employees can leave early or log off for the rest of the day. It’s a middle ground, Riley says, while other companies experimenting with the reduced workweek gauge its efficiency.
Thus far, the results have been mixed, with companies reporting increased productivity, but at a certain cost. For example, some experimenting companies have maintained the 40-hour workweek, but extended their working days from eight to 10 hours. Those longer days aren’t exactly conducive to supporting work/life balance, which has been employees’ top priority during the Great Resignation.