For workaholics, work can bleed into nearly every hour of the day. 24/7/365 access to email, texts, and Slack messages means never being far from work. One lawmaker wants to reduce time spent on the clock—and improve both productivity and work-life balance in the process.
God designed humans to work—and to rest. He made Adam and Eve on the sixth day and placed them “in the garden to work it.” (Genesis 2:15) But first, He—and they—rested. (Genesis 2:2)
Since around 1940, the American “workweek” for most has meant Monday through Friday, eight hours per day, onsite in a field, office, or other location.
Then came 2020.
The pandemic changed where, how, and when people work. As employees quarantined and workplaces closed, occasional late-night IT sessions and weekend Zoom calls became the norm. The American worker simply couldn’t unplug.
Since the pandemic, many employees report working “as much as three additional hours each day” according to a Bloomberg report. They’re also taking fewer breaks.
California Representative Mark Takano hopes to change that. His “32-Hour Workweek Act” would lower the recommended full-time workweek from 40 to 32 hours.
Takano isn’t saying every worker needs to cut hours. But he believes employers should pay overtime for work over the 32-hour mark.
Many of Takano’s fellow lawmakers agree. Takano says his bill helps start a nationwide changeover to “a modern-day business model that prioritizes productivity, fair pay, and an improved quality of life.”
Takano says that post-pandemic, the workweek shouldn’t “go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working.”
Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart of 4-Day Week Global concur. They believe COVID-19 ended the notion of trekking “into the office every single day.” They hope companies will consider other models, including half days, flexible schedules, and hybrid scenarios.
A 2021 study by an Icelandic think tank shows “reductions in working time can increase productivity and improve workers’ wellbeing and work-life balance.”
Armed with such studies, companies like Panasonic and Unilever and countries including Japan and Scotland are testing four-day workweeks.
Writer Conor Sen points out that as the world gets smaller and global communication easier, certain industries never stop. In an article titled, “Don’t Call Me on Friday. That’s My Me Time,” Sen says the four-day workweek is a compromise. “It’s not about turning a five-day work week into a stealth four-day one,” he says. But it is “acknowledging that we already have a stealth seven-day work week and trying to bring some life balance to it.”
Why? Gracious God created humans for rest and for work. A balance between the two works best.