Based on our recent 32 hour workweek survey on Linkedin, most people think tech companies will move to a 32 hour workweek in the next 5 years.
In this article I share the outcomes of the poll and some background information about the 32 hour workweek.
I noticed that some companies out there are rethinking the 40 hour workweek and I wanted see if people thinks the 32 hour workweek will be our new normal in a few years time.
So why do I think companies are moving from a 40 hour workweek to a 32 workweek, while keeping the same compensation packages?
Here are some clues that make me believe this is a real HR trend.
- Some companies have successfully implemented a 32 hour workweek, other companies are experimenting with it
- UAE has formally moved to a 4,5 workweek for all government employees
- A large trial involving thousands of UK employees starting with a four-day workweek has started.
- Small scale research results and anecdotical results proves it is more productive and it fits the needs of employees and benefits overall society.
- There is older, indirect but related academic research that supports the business case.
- Since a 32 hour workweek will attract talent in a scarce labour market it is bringing huge strategic advantages.
Advantages of the 32 hour workweek
Based on early research these are the outcomes from some trials and reports from companies:
- Up to 20% more productivity
- 20% cost reductions
- Higher retention rates
- Easier to attract top talents
- Less sick leave
- Higher levels of employee well-being
- More innovation and creativity
- More human-centric organisation
- Higher levels of well-being
More research is needed, but the companies who tried it are reporting pretty consistent results. Therefor I would be surprised if there would be very defiant results when adapting on larger scales.
If you wonder, like me, how the (theoretical) 20% more productivity is reached, it is mainly explained because people are better rested and more able to focus.
This is the theory which is confirmed in the first empirical results. I am not sure yet if this would also be the case on long term, or is a temporary effect driven by the trial setting. In my view, real productivity gains need also change in the work itself.
But if it is indeed a long-term effect, it means that just putting in 20% less hours leads to 20% more productivity.
4 day workweek vs 32 hour workweek
Some of the above advantages are based on trials with a 4-day workweek, a model where most companies just decide on a company wide day off.
As you might have noticed, I deliberately use the term 32 hour workweek. This is because I don’t think a 4-day work week on fixed days is what we should aim for.
Although it has advantages, it is simply the same structure as a 5 day workweek, both based on time-presence mindset and both do not fit the more individual needs of employees.
Instead, a more flexible model that supports well-being, work life harmony, productivity and creativity is needed.
For example, I am writing this article on a rainy Saturday morning. Earlier this week I have spent two Sunny afternoons on the beach. The flexibility I have created in my schedule allowis me to have an extra day of my focus time and more time to relax and re-charge and run my errands during the week.
Research shows that knowledge workers are only productive for 4-6 hours a day, so making them work more is a waste of resources. Working 4-6 hours spread over the week makes more sense in my view.
32 hour workweek survey results
The poll was run from my personal profile and got 69 votes. Respondents have various backgrounds with around 70% are in Senior (HR) Leadership roles.
- 54% of the respondents think 80% of tech companies will have moved to a 28-32 hour workweek within the next 5 years.
- 28% think the development will happen but see this only happening in 10-15 years.
- 19%% thinks the 40 hour workweek will stay.
Less hours because of technology
I asked some people additional explanation, especially the group that thinks the 40 hour workweek will continue to be the default model.
It is not they they do not believe a 32 hour workweek is better, but they think management paradigms and/or the slow adaption of technology will keep people trapped in the 40 hour workweek, even if there is plenty of proof that is counter productive.
One respondent wrote to me:
I wish it were different but I don’t see the US moving the same direction as Europe in terms of work/life balanced. Even the tech industry (which is usually more progressive) has shown little interest in 32 hour weeks. What I can see happening is a 40 hour/4 day work week with 10 hour days. I think if anything, that may be the next step. I think it will be many years (until AI and Robotics get better/cheaper) before we begin moving to a lower hour workweek. When tech becomes cheaper than labor, that’s likely when the shift will occur. I don’t see it occurring before then.
In spite of having the unpopular opinion, history might prove the minority that thinks the 40 hour workweek will stay, right.
In 1930 John Keynes predicted that we would have a 15 hour workweek by now, thanks to labour saving technologies. That prediction never came true.
That could also mean that this respondents prediction that cheaper tech will lead to lower labour hours might not happen.
So are we ‘forever’ doomed to work 40 hours a week?
Or maybe something else will trigger a global movement towards lower working hours?
It could very well be that this new hybrid, post-pandemic age is the time where people and companies starting to rethink work, adapt new mindsets and implement new structures.
This might be a combination of more empirical evidence that reducing working hours increases productivity and the broader need in overall society to let go of the 40 hour model (that was never intended for knowledge workers by the way).
I do feel that people start to shift their priorities and some “see the light”. But many are programmed in the 8 hour / 40 hour mindset, to such an extent that available data supporting new models is not even taken into account.
Mindsets are hard to change, and working “hard” is deeply connected to our values, especially in protestant countries. Being from a Calvinistic country, I can relate to that!
What do you think the next step will be?