A 32-Hour Work Week: Benefits & Implementation Guide (2022)
While the idea of a shorter work week may seem like a dream come true, there are many benefits to be had by both employees and businesses alike when it comes to implementing a 32hr week
7 min read
12 Apr, 2022
It’s no secret that the traditional 9-5 work week isn’t what it used to be. The average American worker now clocks in 47 hours a week, and that number is only going up. For many people, this means working long hours, sacrificing time with family and friends, and struggling to find a work-life balance.
But what if there was another way?
What if we could all have a job that allowed us to work just 32 hours a week without losing any income or benefits?
In this article, MentorCruise will be explaining exactly what those benefits are, as well as how you can go about implementing a 32-hour work week in your business.
Let's get started!
What Does a 32-Hour Work Week Look Like?
As you might have guessed from the name, a 32-hour work week is a working arrangement that sees employees working for around 30-32 hours per week rather than the standard 40 hours. Not exactly a revelation, I know!
While that definition may seem pretty cut and dry, there are actually a few forms 32-hour work weeks can take in practice, including:
Work weeks consisting of 4 normal days (e.g., 4 × 8-hour days = 32 hours per week)
Work weeks consisting of 5 short days (e.g., 5 × 6-hour days = 30 hours per week)
Work weeks consisting of 3 long days (e.g., 3 × 10-hour days = 30 hours per week)
Of those three options, the first is the most common by a pretty significant margin. The four-day work week (a.k.a., 4DWW) model has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many companies and countries beginning to explore the potential benefits—more on that later!
A Brief History of the 32-Hour Work Week
Before we dive into the benefits of adopting a 32-hour work week, let's quickly cover the evolution of the norms and regulations surrounding working hours.
The concept of shortening the standard work week to prioritize health and productivity is actually nothing new. All the way back to 1817, Robert Owen—a Welsh businessman and social reformer—began campaigning for an 8-hour work day to replace the 12-hour work day(!) that was standard at the time.
Robert Own was the work-life balance OG
The next stop on our historical tour is the early 1900s. As factory jobs became more commonplace, labor unions began campaigning for a shorter work week as a way to reduce worker fatigue and improve safety conditions. In 1916, Henry Ford—the founder of the Ford Motor Company—shocked headlines when he announced that his company would be shortening the work week for his employees to 40 hours over 5 days. That's right; you have Henry Ford to thank for your two-day weekend!
The 5 day work week experiment was made permanent at Ford in July 1926
The historical trend towards shorter working hours is pretty clear. Today, the new frontier is the 32-hour work week, but the arguments against it are the same:
- How can reducing hours make people more productive?
- Won't that hurt our bottom line?
Why fix something that isn't broken?
As you'll come to see, all these questions can be answered—and pretty compellingly at that!
The Benefits of a 32-Hour Work Week
So, now that you have a general understanding of what a 32-hour work week is, it's time to take a look at some of the benefits both employees and businesses can expect to see when adopting one.
There are a surprising number of benefits impacting all areas of business and life, including:
- Improved Work-Life Balance
- Increased Productivity
- Reduced Stress Levels
- Increased Business Creativity
- Improved Employee Morale
- Reduced Operational Costs
- Improved Recruitment and Retention
Now, let's go over these benefits in a bit more depth:
1. Improved Work-Life Balance
One of the most obvious benefits of a 32-hour work week is that it allows employees more time to spend on their personal lives outside of work. This improved work-life balance can be a huge boon for employees, especially those with families.
Research from Autonomy—a labor-focused think tank—found that four-day work week trials in Iceland led to improved work-life balance surveys. People reported spending more time with friends, exercising, engaging with their children, and interacting with their communities in meaningful ways.
2. Increased Productivity
While it may seem counterintuitive, research has shown that working shorter hours can actually lead to increased productivity in the workplace. In a striking example, Microsoft Japan found that temporarily adopting a 32-hour work week led to a 40% increase in productivity. For those keeping score, that's a 40% productivity boost for a 20% decrease in hours!
This effect has been seen in a ton of pilots, trials, and studies around the globe. While it can be hard to wrap your head around the fact that working less can make you more productive, it's a fact!
3. Reduced Stress Levels
In addition to increased productivity, working shorter hours also leads to reduced stress levels in the workplace. Again, this is likely due to the fact that employees have more time to relax outside of work and are less fatigued from long hours.
In a study published by the Scandinavian Journal of Work, researchers found that workers who reduced their hours by 25% experienced a significant decrease in perceived stress levels and a significant increase in sleep quality. They also found that stress levels returned to pre-reduction levels when participants returned to their
4. Increased Business Creativity
Working fewer hours can also lead to increased creativity in the workplace. When employees aren't bogged down by long hours and fatigue, they're able to think more creatively and come up with new ideas and creative solutions to difficult problems.
5. Improved Employee Morale
Shorter work weeks can lead to improved morale in the workplace. When employees have more time to enjoy their lives outside of work, they're likely to be happier and more satisfied with their jobs. This increased happiness can lead to a number of benefits for businesses, including increased employee retention and decreased absenteeism.
6. Reduced Operational Costs
In addition to the benefits listed above, businesses can also expect to see reduced costs when switching to a 32-hour work week. This is due to decreased employee turnover, fewer sick days taken, and reduced facilities costs.
7. Improved Recruitment and Retention
Finally, one of the most important benefits of a 32-hour work week for businesses is that it can improve recruitment and retention. More and more employees are looking for companies that prioritize the experiences of their employees, and seeing "32-hour work week" advertised on a job listing makes applying a no-brainer.
On study out of the University of Reading found that 63% of organizations who have adopted a 32-hour work week report that the practice has helped them attract and retain high-quality talent.
How to Implement a 32-Hour Work Week
Now that you know some of the benefits of a 32-hour work week, it's time to learn how to implement one in your business. While the process will vary depending on your specific organization, there are a few key steps you'll need to take.
1. Assess Your Business Needs
Before you can start implementing a shorter work week, you first need to assess your needs. What is the current workload like? How many hours do employees currently work? What are your business goals for the future?
2. Talk to Your Employees
Once you've decided that a shorter work week is right for your business, it's time to start talking to your employees about it. This is an important step, as you'll need to get their feedback and buy-in before moving forward.
3. Define the New Work Week
Once you've assessed your business needs and engaged with your employees, you can start to define the new work week. As you start this process, think you'll need to answer questions like:
- What days will employees work?
- What hours will they work?
How will employee break times be structured?
4. Train Your Managers
Once you have a plan in place, it's important to train your managers on how to implement it. This will help ensure that the shorter work week is implemented smoothly and effectively.
5. Implement the New Work Week
After you've communicated with your employees, you can start to implement the new work week. Start by gradually reducing hours until you reach the desired 32-hour mark.
6. Evaluate Results
It's incredibly important to evaluate the results of your 32-hour work week. Did employees finish their work in the allotted time? Did morale improve? Was there a decrease in costs? These are all questions you'll need to ask in order to determine whether or not a shorter work week is right for your business.
7. Be Flexible
Finally, it's important to be flexible as you implement a shorter work week. This means that you may need to make some adjustments along the way, and that's okay.
A 32-hour work week can have many benefits for both employees and businesses. In order to implement a 32-hour work week in your business, you first need to assess your needs and talk to your employees. Once you have a plan in place, it's important to train your managers and be flexible as you make adjustments.
Ready to Implement a 32-Hour Work Week?
The benefits of implementing a 32-hour work week for businesses are numerous. Not only does it reduce employee stress, but it also improves morale and reduces costs. It can also improve recruitment and retention rates by providing employees with the flexibility they want in their work-life balance.
Like any large-scale shakeup, implementing a 32-hour work week at your business is a complicated process that involves lots of moving pieces. That's why we recommend seeking advice from someone who's been through the process themselves.
At MentorCruise, we connect motivated mentees with mentors who can help them reach their personal and professional goals. Whether you're curious about implementing a 32-hour work week or are interested in scaling your business, there's a mentor out there who can help. For more information, sign up for a free MentorCruise account!