Henry Ford popularized the 40-hour work week in 1926 after he realized that working more only produced a small increase in productivity. However, it wasn’t until 1940 that the 40-hour work week became law in the United States.

Although the 40-hour workweek has been the standard in the U.S. for more than eight decades, remote work, automation, and a growing focus on well-being have put pressure on the norm. In recent years, many companies, like Buffer, Microsft, and Kickstarter, have been exploring the 32-hour workweek, with promising results for the well-being of employees and business performance.

Legislatively, in 2022, California Assembly Bill (AB) 2932 proposed lowering the state’s work week from 40 to 32 hours for employers with 500 or more employees. More recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has introduced a bill to cut the time many Americans can work each week before they’re paid overtime to 32 hours.

But before you jump on board, let’s examine some of the benefits, challenges, and implementations of 32-hour work weeks.

The Case for Less: Why We Need a Shorter Workweek

Traditional work models often lead to burnout, decreased productivity, and poor well-being. But, if you’re still not convinced, consider these compelling reasons for a shorter workweek:

  • Enhanced productivity. Microsoft Japan reported a 40% increase in productivity after introducing a four-day workweek in 2019. It may be due to employees being more efficient and prioritizing their tasks when they work shorter workweeks. Furthermore, fatigue can hinder focus and quality of work when working long hours.
  • An improved work-life balance. By working 32 hours a week, you can spend more time on your personal interests. Having a healthy work-life balance reduces stress and burnout, resulting in a more motivated and engaged workforce.
  • Improved employee satisfaction. A feeling of overwork and undervaluation can lead to low morale and a high turnover rate. Shorter workweeks foster employee loyalty and satisfaction by demonstrating a commitment to well-being.
  • A positive impact on the environment. Shorter workweeks result in less commuting and less energy consumption at work. According to researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a 10% reduction in working hours reduces an individual’s carbon footprint by 8.6%.
  • Reduced expenditures. Operational requirements vary from business to business. Your company may benefit financially, however, if you adjust the operating hours of your business. Businesses have found that a four-day workweek reduces overhead and variable expenses. For example, the pay may change each week if you offer a four-day workweek. An employer will pay less than one full day’s wages if an employee works fewer hours.
  • A larger talent pool. For those with caregiving responsibilities or studying further, a 32-hour workweek could make work more accessible. The talent pool could be expanded and a more diverse workforce could be created as a result.

Obstacles and Considerations: Is the 32-Hour Workweek Feasible?

When it comes to implementing a 32-hour workweek, there are some challenges to consider:

  • Wage adjustments. In many cases, reduced work hours result in reduced wages. Some employees, especially those with dependents, may find this to be a significant concern. In order to maintain sustainable income, it is essential to find a model that balances lower hours with sustainable income.
  • Workforce restructuring. Changing workflows and staffing may be necessary as a result of shorter workweeks. Investing in automation, hiring part-timers, or reshaping existing roles might be necessary.
  • Industry applicability. Some industries operate 24/7, such as healthcare and emergency services, which may have difficulty adapting to a shorter workweek. In these industries, alternative models need to be found.
  • Shifting management mindset. As a result of a shorter workweek, management needs to shift its focus. Rather than micromanagement, a system built on trust and results-oriented goals needs to be implemented.

The 32-Hour Workweek: The Road to Implementation

Despite some possible drawbacks, flexible schedules and reduced hours at the same wage result in happier employees who work harder.

According to landmark studies in Iceland and Japan, the four-day workweek may be a good solution for companies with stressed workers, inefficient deadlines, low employee engagement, and a tight labor market for talent acquisition and retention.

Also, during the second half of 2022, 60 UK-based companies took part in a four-day workweek trial — the world’s largest to date. After the trial period ended, 90% continued the shorter week, while 30% agreed to keep it.

If you are an employer considering this shift, here is a roadmap for implementing it successfully.

Before you begin, you should consider these factors.

  • Define your goals. Why do you want a 32-hour work week? Is it increasing productivity, employee morale, or attracting talent? The best way to measure success is to have clear goals.
  • Industry compatibility. Some industries are better suited for outsourcing than others. Those with client-facing responsibilities or heavy regulations may need adjustments.
  • Evaluate workflows. Identify areas of streamlining in your current workflows. Is it possible to shorten or eliminate meetings? Are there any tasks that can be automated? By optimizing your workflow, you can maintain output in a shorter period of time.
  • Company culture. For success, it is essential to communicate openly and to adopt a results-oriented mindset.
  • Trial period. Pilot programs can be used to assess the impact and make necessary adjustments.

How to get your team on board.

  • Transparency is key. Explain the change and address any concerns you may have.
  • Gather feedback. Workload distribution and scheduling preferences should be discussed with employees.
  • Training and support. To thrive in a condensed schedule, provide them with time management and focus techniques.

How to optimize your work week for 32 hours.

  • Schedule restructuring. Decide on your new schedule. Will there be four 8-hour days, or will there be a compressed schedule with longer days? Think about employee preferences and what works best for your company.
  • Prioritization is king. Eliminate or delegate non-essential tasks and focus on core tasks.
  • Technology as an ally. There are many ways in which technology can be your friend. Despite a compressed schedule, several communication and collaboration tools can facilitate seamless teamwork. Keeping track of projects and collaboration is easier with time management apps and shared calendars.
  • Meetings matter. When possible, enforce time limits and use asynchronous communication.
  • Outcomes over hours.  Instead of looking at how much time employees spend on the job, evaluate their performance by the results they achieve.

Getting the most out of a 32-hour workweek.

  • Track your progress. To measure the program’s success, monitor key metrics like employee satisfaction and productivity.
  • Be flexible. Continuously adapt and refine your approach based on feedback.
  • Communicate with clients and customers. Give a clear explanation of how the new schedule will impact the timeline for the project.

Adopting a 32-hour work week can enhance employee well-being and potentially increase your business’s bottom line. The key to success in this exciting workplace revolution will be careful planning, effective communication, and a results-oriented approach.

The Road Ahead: Moving Towards a More Balanced Future

Collaboration will be required to make the transition to a shorter workweek. The following are some potential pathways:

  • Government legislation. Legislation mandating a shorter workweek with a higher minimum wage can be introduced. This would require careful planning to avoid economic disruption.
  • Industry-specific solutions. Different industries may require different solutions. Healthcare, for instance, could use rotating schedules and telemedicine.
  • Flexible work arrangements. Companies can offer flexible work arrangements, such as compressed workweeks or core working hours, to improve work-life balance.

A 32-hour workweek’s success relies on open communication, collaboration, and experimentation.


What is a 32-hour workweek?

The 32-hour workweek is a work schedule in which employees work four 8-hour days instead of the traditional five-day, 40-hour week. While maintaining (ideally) the same level of productivity, this compressed workweek offers employees an extra day off.

Is a 32-hour workweek right for all industries?

The concept of a 4-day workweek with compressed hours (32 hours) is gaining traction, but it’s unsuitable for everyone. This is best for remote and hybrid knowledge work roles. It might be more challenging to implement in industries like healthcare, manufacturing, or customer service requiring specific service hours.

What are the benefits of a 32-hour workweek?

  • Improved work-life balance. By gaining an additional day, employees may experience less stress and burnout.
  • Increased productivity.  A compressed workweek can improve focus and efficiency at work.
  • Employee retention.  By offering 32 hours a week, you can attract and retain talent.
  • Reduced overhead costs. It might be cheaper for employers to rent office space, use utilities, etc.

What are the challenges of a 32-hour workweek?

  • Meeting deadlines. If you want to condense your workload into fewer hours, you may need to prioritize tasks and manage your time better.
  • Communication and collaboration. During a shorter workweek, teams may need to adjust their communication and collaboration.
  • Workload redistribution. Planning and focusing are essential to completing all work within a short timeframe.
  • Salary considerations. Some companies do not offer full-time pay for compressed workweeks. The salary may be reduced proportionally.

Is a 32-hour workweek right for my industry?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. In industries where remote work is more common than customer service or production lines, a 32-hour work week may be more suitable.

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