Lawmakers in Maryland are weighing legislation that would encourage government agencies and private employers to adopt a four-day workweek.
Proposals for a four-day week of eight-hour days, during which compensation would not be reduced from former levels, have increased in recent years after a worldwide study found that earnings improved for participating companies. State Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D) and several members of the Maryland General Assembly introduced the Four–Day Workweek Act for the purpose of “promoting, incentivizing, and supporting” experimentation with the arrangement.
“There’s growing evidence that reducing work hours boosts both happiness and productivity. Let’s try it,” State Del. Vaughn Stewart (D) contended on social media.
The legislation provides state tax credits as high as $750,000 per year for businesses that reduce at least 30 employees from a 40-hour week to a 32-hour week without a “reduction in pay or benefits.” The initiative, which would be managed by the Maryland Department of Labor, may likewise allow government agencies to participate and track their results.
Supporters of four-day workweek frameworks emphasize the arrangement’s benefits for employee wellbeing and work-life balance. Some 45% of workers cite lackluster flexibility when discussing why they left their previous jobs, while roughly 48% mention childcare difficulties, according to a survey from Pew Research Center. The aforementioned international study concluded that revenues increased 8% for companies involved with the experiment.
“Work time reduction has long been promoted as a multiple dividend reform, with the potential to bring social, economic and climate benefits,” researchers said. “Social benefits include less stress and burnout for employees, as well as more time for family, community, and self. Economic benefits depend on the form of work time reduction. Where it is accomplished without loss or even gains in productivity, it is beneficial for companies’ bottom lines.”
Other findings show that managerial headaches from flexible work arrangements are palpable for employers: 85% of business leaders say the shift to hybrid work “has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive,” according to a study from Microsoft.
The most recent World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland, featured a panel event about the possibility of adopting a four-day workweek. Dutch Employment Minister Karien van Gennip acknowledged that the proposal remains “very much a discussion for the upper class” since many occupations would still require traditional arrangements.
“If you look at many of the jobs that are service jobs, they are still in-person service jobs,” the official said. “It’s much more difficult to go toward those flexibility hours and also, if you would go to a four-day work week, if you consider the discussions we also have on minimum wage and on living wage, then you have to be quite serious about what it means for the pay per hour.”
Leading skeptics of calls for increased workplace flexibility include Elon Musk, who has mandated that employees at his companies complete their tasks from the office and expect to work “long hours at high intensity.” The billionaire informed workers at electric automaker Tesla that work-from-home is “no longer” acceptable and commented that those who disagree with the new policy “should pretend to work somewhere else.” He likewise told Twitter employees that working “on location physically” is far superior to other arrangements.
Calls for less intense work in white-collar occupations come as technology firms dismiss large swaths of redundant employees to reduce payroll expenses.