But a new survey offers support for a not-so-radical but still uncommon solution: The four-day workweek.
Researchers for financial firm Jefferies asked young Americans (ages 22 to 35) who had quit their jobs recently what their former bosses could have done to persuade them to stay. Thirty-two percent said they would have stayed if they’d been offered a four-day work week. That was the second most-common answer, right behind the 43% who would have stayed for more money.
The study also found 80% of respondents support a four-day workweek. As for the remaining 20%: Only 3% said they were against a shorter week, and 17% were “neutral.”
Among workers with Bachelor’s degrees, “feeling burned out” was the No. 1 reason they quit.
The idea of a four-day week is hardly new, but the pandemic and the overwork that came with it have reinvigorated proponents.
“Globally and nationally, I think we’re at a similar place now,” Takano said. “Norms are being upended and questioned. People don’t want to return to old ways.”
It won’t happen overnight, he said. But it may come faster than people expect.
When Microsoft tried a shorter workweek in Japan in 2019, it found productivity went up by almost 40%.
Why is it taking so long?
So what gives?
Experts have offered a range of explanations — big corporations are reluctant to change, especially if the change impacts the bottom line. It’s hard to imagine managers rushing to agree to pay workers the same amount of money for less work, even if productivity holds steady.
“I don’t see how the four-day week is going anywhere because it doesn’t help most employers,” said Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School. Although it makes sense in areas such as nursing, where it’s important to have the same person giving care longer each day, he says, there’s little or no benefit for traditional 9-5 offices to try to accommodate 10-hour shifts.
And, of course, there’s simple inertia. It’s difficult for workers to imagine a schedule different from the one they’ve grown up with.
— CNN Business’ Kathryn Vasel contributed to this article.