Is a four-day workweek right for your business? (2024)

The four-day workweek has received a multitude of attention from politicians, unions, media, and the repair industry in the past year.

In March, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that reduces the hours employees are required to work from 40 to 32 before overtime. It would also ban employers from cutting employee pay or benefits.

The Fair Labor Standards Act limited the workweek to 44 hours in 1938, according to the Associated Press. Two years later the law was amended to 40 hours and has remained for eight decades.

Yet, the conversation of a four-day workweek has become a more popular topic of discussion as many industries struggle with workforce shortages.

Often in the U.S., this means changing the workweek schedule from five days a week with eight-hour shifts to four days a week with 10-hour shifts. In Europe, a four-day-week discussion often focuses on reducing working hours from 40 to 32.

During a March Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on Sanders’ bill, United Automobile Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain spoke in favor of the proposal.

A 32-hour week was a part of the bargaining goals UAW set during a strike last year. It wasn’t a goal they were able to achieve through negotiations.

“I’m here to talk about one of the most important issues to any union leader and any working-class person, any U.S. senator, and any human being: our time,” Fain said to the committee. “As president of the United Auto Workers, I represent 400,000 working-class people and 600,000 retirees. I know when my members look back on their lives, they never say, ‘I wish I would have worked more.’ When people reach the end of their lives, they never say, ‘I wish I made more money.’ What they wish for is they wish they had more time.”

Fain said his union fought for a 30-hour week in the 1930s and 1940s.

“But today, deep in the 21st Century, we find these ideas unimaginable,” Fain said. “Instead, we find workers working longer hours. We have workers working seven days a week, 12 hours a day. There are workers, union or not, working multiple jobs, and they’re living to work, they’re scraping to get by, and they’re living paycheck to paycheck. We find workers today working deep into their 60s, 70s, and 80s because they can’t afford to retire.”

Sanders and Fain have both said a shorter week is more possible in modern times because of technological advancements.

“Since the industrial revolution, we’ve seen productivity in our society skyrocket,” Fain said. “With the advance of technology, one worker is now doing what 12 workers used to do. More profit is being squeezed out of every hour, every minute, and every second.”

A fact sheet on Sanders’ bill claims U.S. workers are 400% more productive than they were in 1940.

The sheet refers to a United Kingdom study released last year that piloted a 32-hour workweek with 3,000 workers and more than 60 companies. It found 70% of workers reported greater satisfaction with their time and felt less burnt out. Participating businesses saw a 35% average increase in revenue.

A pilot study of 41 companies in the U.S. and Canada found similar results, the fact sheet says. It said none of the companies expressed the desire to return to a five-day workweek after the study.

A Repairer Driven Education (RDE) session from the 2023 SEMA Show explores the positives and negatives of the use of a four-day workweek in the repair industry. The session focuses on the use of a four-day week with 10-hour shifts.

“Being able to find competent staff is becoming more and more difficult because they are becoming a very valuable commodity,” said Tim Ronak, AkzoNobel senior services consultant, as the moderator of the session. “Progressive companies are looking for ways to differentiate their organizations.”

Ronak said some are turning to a four-day workweek. However, he said it can be designed differently for each business. This could include offering fewer holidays or agreements that staff could be called in on short notice.

In studies, most employees have said that the extra day allowed them to spend more time bonding with family, Ronak said.

Ronak suggests that businesses considering the change should take data measurements of performance prior to implementation. He said this could help determine output pre- and post-implementation.

Tony Adams, AkzoNobel business services consultant, said employers are giving about 10-and-a-half weeks of time back to their employees.

The advantages for an employer include employee retention, the attraction of top talent, potential cost savings, positive impact on company culture, increased employee productivity, enhanced employee morale, and a reduced carbon footprint, Adams said.

Employee advantages include an improved work-life balance, reduced commuting time, increased productivity and focus with fewer starts and stops, enhanced morale and satisfaction, and missing rush hour traffic by starting earlier and later in the day, he said.

Disadvantages include longer days that could be difficult for some jobs in the repair industry, Adams said.

“As we know, this is a physically demanding industry; it is hard on our bodies,” Adams said.

An early start time and a late end time could cause complications for some employees’ personal responsibilities, Adams said. For example, it could make it difficult for a parent to drop their child off at school prior to work.

Employees could see a reduction in overtime hours, which reduces their overall pay, according to Adams.

Administrators, who typically already work long hours, could find themselves working even longer hours, he said.

Adams added that customers and clients also could see this as a negative.

Other negatives could include implementation costs, scheduling complexities, and manager resentment, he said.

Kena Dacus, owner of Dacus Auto Body and Collision Repair, said during the session that her business had successfully been running four-day workweeks for about 18 months.

Technicians refused the idea the first time it was pitched, she said. About six months later, after thinking it over, technicians decided to give it a six-week try.

Everyone unanimously voted to keep the schedule when the six weeks were finished, she said.

“Retention and recruitment has been positive,” Dacus said.

Another nearby shop has attempted to pouch the shop’s technicians with higher pay, she said. None of her seven technicians have left.

“They decided on the four-day workweek over higher paid offers,” Dacus said.

Dacus said production is also higher. She said there’s always lost time at the start of the day and after lunch. Having one less day decreases the wasted time around starts and stops.

Overtime hours are decreased and utilities cost less, she said.

The technicians also decided they wanted to shorten their lunch hour from an hour to 30 minutes to get home sooner, she said.

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Photo courtesy of Dragon Claws/iStock

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