KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WATE) – A study published in Iceland that looked at the benefits of a four-day workweek called it an “overwhelming success” and word has spread among international media and governments – as well as businesses. A university researcher specializing in business management based in Tennessee this week shared insight into the four-day workweek and how employee productivity can be addressed.
Studies in Japan and New Zealand have also shown positive results for the four-day work week. Business, management and organization experts at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business say that while the four-day work week has been a hot topic lately, the idea has been around for some time.
Academic and management research studies dating back to the 1970s or earlier discuss the idea of a four-day work week and since 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the approaches of various businesses to how they manage their employees.
“There’s actually quite a large — and growing — amount of current literature on the four-day workweek,” said Timothy P. Munyon, associate professor of management at UT Haslam College of Business. “The general consensus is that it improves productivity, reduces burnout and increases respite.”
Munyon majors in management and is the Janet and Jeff Davis Faculty Research Fellow at Haslam College of Business. His current research interests focus on the causes and effects of social influence at work, human resource management practices, and the behavior of entrepreneurs and family businesses. Munyon’s research has been published in several journals spanning management, psychology, organizational behavior, and human resource management.
“The evidence is quite compelling for the viability of a ‘results-only work environment,'” Munyon said. “This concept isn’t new, but the idea is to give people tasks, resources, and autonomy to get the job done, and then hold them accountable for results, rather than processes.”
Munyon also said these structures can save a lot of time, give employees the flexibility they want or need, and can also change the organization’s focus towards its employees.
“Of course, this is primarily intended for knowledge work roles, but can apply to other forms of work as well, including manufacturing,” he said.
Historically, the 40-hour, five-day work week became part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Since then, the workforce has seen significant changes, such as the massive influx of women into the labor market; the increased influence of international relations and employment; the rise of the internet and the information age – and more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.
When it comes to hours spent in a work week, workaholism isn’t as productive, experts say.
“Additional research suggests that there are no significant differences between the 55-hour and 70-hour work week, suggesting that ‘classic workaholism’ does not result in a demonstrable improvement in productivity compared to to a more balanced work week.” Munyon mentioned.
A US congressman representing California last summer proposed legislation (US HB4728) for a 32-hour, four-day work week and it gained momentum in Washington, D.C. In December, the Congressional Progressive Caucus approved the bill. Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“As a longtime member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I am proud that the caucus voted to formally approve my 32-hour workweek law in support of the transition to a modern business model that prioritizes to productivity, fair compensation and a better quality of work life for workers across the country,” Rep. Mark Takano (D-California) said in a December statement. “After a pandemic of nearly two years that has forced millions of people to explore remote work options, it’s safe to say that we can’t — and shouldn’t — just go back to normal because normal wasn’t working. more time at work, less time with their loved ones, their health and well-being were deteriorating and, meanwhile, their wages were stagnating. This is a serious problem. It is time to move forward and I am convinced that with the CCP behind this bill, we can take significant steps forward and create positive and lasting change in people’s lives.
At last check, the 32-hour workweek bill had been sent to the House Education and Labor Committee, where it is pending.