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The 32-Hour Workweek: Pros and Cons

The 32-hour workweek is a concept that is gaining traction in America. The average American workweek has remained relatively unchanged since the industrial revolution. But with ongoing advancements in technology and constantly evolving situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are starting to reconsider the typical 8-hour workday.

Some experts believe that shorter workweeks could improve health, increase the quality of life, reduce labor costs, and even lower carbon emissions. Others argue that working fewer hours would be bad news for the economy. The debate is still raging on, but for sure: employees across America are watching closely to see how it all plays out.

This article explores whether or not 32-hour workweeks are suitable for everyone — including the planet — and what it means for businesses if they increase employee productivity by decreasing their time in the office.

Why The 32-Hour Work Week Is and Isn't a Good Idea

A 32-hour work week sounds excellent on paper, but how many people are okay with this arrangement? A recent Gallup poll found that only a quarter of Americans would be satisfied with a four-day workweek.

  • In support of the 32-hour work week, some people don't have the energy to work that hard anymore — they're tired after spending their days taking care of their pets and children, putting out fires in their personal lives, and the list goes on. They want a more positive work-life balance that provides them with more time to better organize and situate their personal lives.

  • Depending on what company you work for, a 32-hour work week could look like a 4-day work week with longer hours. In this case, are you really building a better work-life balance? For other companies, a 32-hour work week means offering a smaller salary. Can the working class afford to miss out on pay for that 5th day of work every week? Many cannot.

Where Businesses Are with 32-Hour Work Week

Thanks to California Assembly member Cristina Garcia, a new bill has been proposed that would require California employers with more than 500 employees to honor a 32-hour workweek for employees if they so choose. However, if the collective bargaining agreement covers workers, the bill would not apply.

The bill laid out is AB 2932 and was introduced on September 10, 2021. It's known as a "job killer" by the California Chamber of Commerce because it would be challenging for companies to maintain productivity and profitability with such an abbreviated work schedule. Actually, there are currently only four counties where the average employee works fewer than 40 hours per week in the US.

How A 32-Hour Week Would Work Out

The bill will likely be challenged in court if passed since it violates the labor standards Act regarding overtime pay requirements. Following its passage through both houses of California's legislature, employees who work more than 32 hours in a workweek will get paid one-and-a-half times their regular salary. It could set off a nationwide movement among other states looking for ways to reduce their unemployment rates without sacrificing worker benefits or quality of life.

Is a 32-hour work week the right call?

According to a recent survey, 52% of Americans would not be okay with working 32 hours a week. This is not surprising, given that only 26% of Americans currently work less than 40 hours per week. But what about the other half? The vast majority (75%) say they're happy with their current schedules, while 8% are too busy, and 3% don't know how they feel.

The American opinion on the idea of a 32-hour workweek is clear: they do not want it. In some cases, this could be due to a high workload, but in others, it is because they do not like the idea of spending more time at home. It will likely change as workers adjust to remote work and discover that a shorter workweek may not be wrong.

Want to keep learning? Check out our additional resources to learn more and to stay updated on labor dynamics.


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