The four-day work week is suddenly catching on

Once considered a niche perk, shorter work weeks are being used to avoid layoffs
A perk no longer.
A perk no longer.
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
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Once considered a niche perk, the four-day work week is slowly but surely gaining traction in the United States.

Data from jobs marketplace ZipRecruiter shows that in 2020, so far, the share of company job postings offering four-day work weeks is 69 for every 10,000 job postings. It’s a tiny number to be sure, but it’s up from 40 in 2019. Between 2015 and 2018, the share was fewer than 18 in 10,000 postings each year.

Pre-pandemic, companies offered condensed schedules largely to attract and retain talent that prized flexibility. In the current climate, a shorter work week is one way for companies to cut costs without resorting to layoffs.

Employers including TripAdvisor and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have temporarily moved to a four-day workweek, in addition to implementing pay cuts, as NBC News reported. Public officials in Strongsville, Ohio, also have switched to a four-day work week, due to declining tax revenues.

Between the pandemic’s elimination of commutes and the productivity of people working remotely, “[c]ompanies may be realizing that they can get five days’ worth of work done in four,” says Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter.

But it isn’t just employers who are posed to benefit. Condensed work weeks could potentially reduce the burden of childcare, which has become acute during lockdowns with the closure of schools and daycares. And in May, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern suggested that employers consider moving to a four-day work week to help boost local tourism and workers’ well-being during the pandemic.

Still, the vast majority of companies do not offer this perk, and reduced hours may not necessarily work in manufacturing, construction, or, as The Abacus Blog puts it, in any industry “with a direct and predictable relationship between inputs and outputs.”

🎧 For more, listen to the Work Reconsidered podcast episode on the four-day workweek. Or subscribe via: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher.