by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
House liberals are lining up behind a proposal to shorten the U.S. workweek to four days, which could bring American workplace culture more closely in line with Europe’s.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus this week endorsed a measure that would shorten the official definition of a full workweek to 32 hours, triggering overtime pay for many workers who put in any additional hours.
“After a nearly two-year-long pandemic that forced millions of people to explore remote work options, it’s safe to say that we can’t — and shouldn’t — simply go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working,” Rep. Mark Takano, vice chairman of the CPC, said in a statement about the move.
Flexible work arrangements have become increasingly popular in the aftermath of the pandemic, with a growing number of companies offering remote work and other options to accommodate people who became accustomed to changes that occurred during a year or more of lockdowns.
But a four-day workweek could dramatically change the way people approach their jobs, bringing benefits and drawbacks to the dilemma it would pose to companies. …
… Shortening the workweek would significantly shape the way many businesses operate — especially ones that offer customer service to consumers who may expect to have their inquiries answered quickly every day of the week.
A majority of business leaders raised concerns about the practice, according to a 2019 survey of British business leaders from the Harvard Business Review, including concerns about the layers of bureaucracy that the creation of a workable four-day workweek could create.
In many businesses, employers would need to create rotating schedules so that all employees could enjoy a three-day weekend without shuttering the company one additional day each week.
And while the four-day workweek has succeeded in some European countries that have encouraged it and large corporations that have tried it out, other companies have abandoned it after encountering difficulties.