How widespread could the four-day workweek really be?

Other organizations for which four-day workweeks are likely off the table are hourly- and service-based – like restaurants, retail and healthcare – where a shorter workweek and subsequently fewer shifts ultimately means lower compensation. Although workers in these industries would likely experience similar benefits from reduced workloads, creating a pathway to less labor may be impossible, if it means losing out on pay.

The new normal

Even facing resistance from some leaders, experts say it is likely the four-day week will become more mainstream.

In sectors that are already welcoming the shift, the 32-hour week is emerging as “a as a tool for competitive advantage in terms of talent, attraction and retention”, says O’Connor. “You could see a scenario in tech where by 2026, not offering a four-day week is almost a competitive disadvantage.”

And the more companies that make the switch, the more others who have not yet made the move may feel pressure to do so. “It’s hard to implement a four-day week when the rest of the economy is organized in a five-day week,” says Gomes, “but the moment you have the job market coordinating on a four-day week, then it forces the rest of the economy.”

Even so, such widespread societal change would take “many years”, he says, and some industries will inevitably be left until last. Schools, for example, might struggle to implement a four-day week for full-time staff unless parents were already working such arrangements en masse.

There is also the possibility that companies will turn to other less drastic measures than a four-day week. “I predict that no-meeting days, flexible work hours and other innovative approaches to work-life balance will become standard practice in the near future,” says Laker.

For now, the shorter workweek may not be widespread, but there’s momentum around the globe to keep the experiment going. In 2023, trials of the four-day workweek are planned or ongoing in Australia, Spain, Scotland and more.

“There’s an element of ‘the genie’s out of the bottle’. We’re not going back to the way we were working pre-pandemic,” says O’Connor. “The four-day week is not going to be 100% of the economy, much like the five-day week is not wholly representative of the economy now, but it certainly could become the new normal.”

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