With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

The 4-Day Work Week is an Idea Whose Time Has Come (Again)

While the concept of a four-day week may seem like a radical shift for full-time American workers — 84% of whom clock in five days a week — U.S. lawmakers have floated the idea of a shorter schedule since at least 1933.

In 1956, then-Vice President Richard Nixon predicted that a universal four-day week would arrive in “the not-too-distant future.” And in the decades since, worker surveys consistently have shown that the vast majority of American workers would prefer a shorter workweek, said Kate Lister, the president of Global Workplace Analytics, a consulting firm that helps businesses navigate the future of work.

Employees have never had the power to demand those types of schedule changes, however — a dynamic that reversed somewhat during the widespread upheaval and labor shortages of the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 45% of people who left a job the previous year considered a lack of flexibility around “when to put in hours” a major factor in their decision to quit. (The Pew Research Center, like Stateline, is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.)

“We’re having a serious problem attracting employees, because no one wants to work on a traditional schedule here,” said Hawaii state Sen. Chris Lee, a Democrat, who co-sponsored a bill that would create a task force to study four-day weeks for public employees.

“But the intent,” he added, “is to facilitate the evolution of … both the public and private sectors.”

At the same time, the four-day workweek has gained momentum in other countries, providing a new model for the United States. Belgium, Scotland and Spain have embraced versions of the four-day week during the COVID-19 pandemic; so too have divisions of major corporations Canon and Unilever, as well as smaller companies such as Kickstarter and Bolt in the U.S.

Read entire article at NextCity