Working 40 hours a week is a staple in American work culture.
It’s been this way since 1940 when the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended, establishing a 40-hour workweek. This was a win for the labor movement in the United States, which had fought for years against long hours and exploitation after the start of the Industrial Revolution.
It’s been over 80 years since workers have seen a reduction in the mandatory hours they contribute to their workplace, and not much progress has been made in shaving down the 9-to-5 work schedule.
Still, the pandemic forced us to rethink our work-life balance, and a handful of companies are experimenting with a four-day, 32-hour workweek. Research looking at more than 70 companies in the U.K. found no loss in productivity with employees working 20 percent fewer hours.
Would a shorter workweek improve workers’ quality of life? Could companies cut employee’s hours without changing wages? MPR News host Angela Davis talks about work-life balance and the challenges behind the four-day workweek.
John Crea is the author of “Recalibrating the Labor Market: How to have your cake and time to eat it too.”
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor at Marketplace, American Public Media's nationally syndicated public radio business and economic programs. He’s also a senior economics contributor at MPR News.
Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.
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