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University of Illinois Professor study shows four day work week could be on the horizon

Written by on March 24, 2023

Photo provided by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

NORMAL, Ill. – The world’s largest-ever trial of a four-day workweek was recently conducted in the UK and analysts have concluded that the benefits of a shortened workweek may outweigh the costs.

The trial results showed a growth in revenue and improved employee retention for companies that shortened their workweek.  

92 percent of the companies that participated in the study are going to continue with a shortened workweek, and 30 percent of the companies have decided to implement a shortened workweek permanently.

Dr. Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the director of the Project for Middle-Class Renewal, believes that this study was crucial in counteracting the increase in average work hours that has been happening over the past few decades.

“Wages have been stagnant for four decades,” said Dr. Bruno. “So, the only way to keep up with the increased cost of living is by working more hours.”

Dr. Bruno said the way that a company’s management structures it’s workforce has a large impact on average hours worked.

“It’s become more common for employers to operate with a skeletal workforce. They’ll have the smallest number of workers they need available at all times, and that usually compels the need for a lot of overtime hours,” said Dr. Bruno.

Dr. Bruno claims the UK and Belgium have been leaders in the European four-day workweek movement. Domestically, Maryland and Pennsylvania have been two of the first states to introduce legislation pertaining to a shortened workweek.

“There are pockets of trials that have occurred in the US and other places, and I think in order for this to start to get real traction we really do need the help of state policymakers to help incentivize employers to consider this,” said Dr. Bruno. 

Dr. Bruno says the four-day workweek would be especially beneficial for employers who have been seeing a worker shortage. Not only would individual worker productivity increase, but a shortened workweek may incentivize new employees to join the workforce.

No formal record of four-day workweek studies has been created, and Dr. Bruno says a collective demonstration of positive results may incentivize employers and employees to support a shortened workweek.

Dr. Bruno hopes that this study can show legislatures and employers that the amount that people work is a major contributor to their well-being.

“The amount of time we spend at work is a powerful contributor to health and welfare in this society, and there’s an economic cost attached to that,” said Dr. Bruno. “The economic benefits of a four-day workweek also prove beneficial for the employer.  It’s clear that there is no one worse off in this situation. We’re stuck in a mindset that goes back to the 1920s and ‘30s, and it’s just not appropriate for the year 2023.”

Dr. Bruno says four-day work weeks will most likely be implemented first in high-paying information sector jobs.  He believes that a shorter workweek would be equally successful in all industries, but retail and lower-paying employers may take longer to adapt.