Washington 4-Day Workweek

Discover how Washington is pioneering the 4-day workweek model and reshaping work-life balance for employees statewide.

Washington 4-Day Workweek

The traditional five-day workweek is now on the verge of a significant shift. According to a survey, almost 4 in every 10 firms are considering adopting a 4-day workweek model due to its various benefits.

This trend is gaining traction in many U.S. states, including Washington, with legislative proposals and local initiatives exploring the possibilities of a compressed work schedule. Let's dig deeper to see how the state is approaching this change.

Washington 4-Day Workweek Bill

State Senator Joe Nguyen proposed Senate Bill 6516, referred to as the Washington 4-Day Work Week Bill, on January 20, 2022. With this proposition, he requested the authorities to make the 32-hour workweek the new standard for full-time employment in the state.

Under the proposed legislation, employees working over 32 hours would be eligible for overtime pay, maintaining existing exemptions for specific categories of workers.

Key Features

  • Objectives: Adapting modern work patterns, enhancing worker well-being through flexibility, reducing stress, and potentially boosting productivity
  • Inspiration: Success of similar initiatives in other countries and tech companies
  • Legislative Process: Recognized potential challenges in initial passage, aimed to spark public conversation and adjustments based on feedback
  • Approval Status: Referred to the Labor & Commerce committee; did not pass during that legislative session.

Although this specific bill wasn't approved in the legislature, the state has seen independent initiatives reflecting a new wave of interest in the four-day workweek.

San Juan - The Pioneer of 32-Hour Workweek in Washington

San Juan Washington

San Juan, a small island, is the first county in Washington to successfully shift to a four-day workweek schedule on October 1 2023. The typical 40 job hours are replaced with 32 hours with no reduction in salaries to improve work-life balance.

It originated when the county workers asked for a raise in their salaries. Since authorities didn't want to go over budget, they proposed a 32-hour work week.

Departments have flexibility in adapting to the change, with most expected to maintain a five-day schedule using staggered shifts. However, some may opt for a four-day week model.

The change was agreed upon by the San Juan County Council in collaboration with a workers' union comprising 142 members. The council encompasses nurses, road workers, park staff, etc., accounting for 70% of San Juan's working class.

However, people working in emergency services and sheriff's deputies have to stick to their usual hours, considering the sensitive nature of their jobs.

The model will undergo a six-month review in April 2024 and a one-year review in October 2024. Another assessment is scheduled for 2025, coinciding with the conclusion of the county's employee contract.

Benefits of a 4-Day Workweek in San Juan Washington

Implementing a 32-hour workweek in San Juan County, Washington, showcases benefits that align with broader findings related to 4-day workweeks.

These include:

  • Increased Per-Hour Wage Rates: By maintaining salaries while reducing hours, employees experience an effective increase in their per-hour earnings. This can lead to higher job satisfaction and financial well-being.
  • Enhanced Work-Life Balance: The additional day off provides workers more time for personal activities, such as hiking, biking, and spending time with family, facilitating better overall life satisfaction and mental health.
  • Improved Productivity: The county's leaders expect a shorter workweek to lead to higher efficiency, citing research and pilot programs showing productivity improvements in similar setups.
  • Attraction and Retention of Talent: Offering a condensed workweek can make an employer more attractive to job seekers and help retain current employees by meeting modern expectations for work-life balance.
  • Addressing Staffing Challenges: The initiative is seen as a strategy to combat the difficulty of hiring and retaining workers, particularly in isolated or high-cost living areas like San Juan County.

4-Day Workweek Companies in Washington

Washington 4 day work week

While the nationwide adoption of a 4-day workweek in Washington is still awaited, a few companies in the state are already following this route.

Let's have a brief look at them:

1. Uplevel

Uplevel, a Seattle-based software company that enhances engineering efficiency, adopted a 4-day workweek initiative in January 2022. Motivated to boost employee well-being and productivity, the company embraced this model to foster a healthier work-life balance. Despite the reduced working hours, the salaries of employees remained the same.

Results:

Following the implementation of the four-day workweek, Uplevel observed several key findings:

  • Increased Product Delivery Volume: The company saw a rise in the number of completed tasks and their complexity, suggesting employees were more productive and focused on high-impact projects.

Customer Onboarding Record: Uplevel onboarded more customers during this period than in any previous quarter, highlighting an improved capacity for growth.

Work-Life Balance Improvements:** Employees reported a better balance between professional and personal life, feeling less exhausted at the end of the day and more refreshed in the morning.

  • Engagement Beyond Official Workdays: Workers voluntarily engaged in work activities on their off days, particularly Fridays. This ranged from fulfilling on-call responsibilities in critical roles to dedicating less than 2 hours to deep, focused work.
  • Efficient Deep Work: Meetings became more efficient, and the opportunity for deep work increased for almost all teams without significantly rising burnout indicators.

2. Volt Athletics

Volt Athletics, a Seattle-based sports tech company adopted a 4-day workweek approach in March 2020 in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Following this, employees were provided with flex Fridays, which they could spend the way they wanted.

This decision, led by CEO Dan Giuliani, was grounded in the belief that a compressed workweek would not only maintain productivity but also enhance employee well-being.

Results:

The firm observed the following changes after the successful adoption of a 4-day workweek:

  • Increased Employee Satisfaction: Following the shift to a 4-day workweek, Volt experienced a 100% increase in job satisfaction among employees, with a notable enhancement in their overall work-life balance.
  • Maintained or Increased Productivity: Contrary to concerns, productivity levels were either maintained or improved, as reported by 96% of employees. This highlights the efficiency of focused work over longer, less structured hours.
  • Attractiveness to Talent: The innovative work schedule has positioned Volt Athletics as a desirable employer, leading to an exponential increase in job applications from top-tier talent seeking a better work-life balance.
  • Optimized Meetings: Volt initially cleared all recurring meetings from their schedule, keeping only the necessary ones. This led to a one-third reduction in meetings, which in turn led to streamlined communication and enhanced efficiency.
  • Positive Revenue Impact: Interestingly, the company observed a positive impact on revenues, suggesting that enhanced employee satisfaction and well-being can contribute to better business outcomes.

Schools in Washington Adapting 4-Day Workweek

The wave of a condensed work week in Washington is not only limited to companies. Instead, many school districts have implemented it already, which include:

  1. Waterville School District in Douglas County
  2. Selkirk and Cusick School Districts in Pend Oreille County
  3. Paterson School District in Benton County
  4. Bickleton School District in Klickitat County

These districts had to apply to the Washington State Board of Education for approval​​to make this change in the schedule.

This is part of a pilot program initiated by Washington State's legislature in 2009, which allowed up to five districts to operate on this schedule. However, there were certain conditions that must be followed, including limitations on student population sizes​.

Wrapping Up

While the 4-day workweek is not being followed nationally in Washington, the examples of San Juan and Seattle reflect a growing trend. This demonstrates that we may see the implementation of the work model soon in the state, especially now that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a relevant bill.

If you're also seeking a better work-life balance while being paid adequately, chcek out our job board that features remote 4-day week job positions at different companies worldwide - including U.S. based 4 day week jobs.