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Maryland proposes 4-day workweek; companies find success with model

The new trend could become a way to keep people in their jobs longer and work fewer hours without losing pay. Some companies are already doing it.
Posted at 12:03 PM, Feb 23, 2023

Working four days a week might sound like the dream schedule for many. Soon, it could be a reality in the United States — at least in Maryland.

Jon Leland is chief strategy officer for Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects. 

"It's time for us to really think and update the model of the way we work," he said.

Maryland legislators are proposing a bill for businesses to participate in a four-day workweek. Some companies in the U.S. are already doing it.

"We did a six-month trial of a four-day workweek last year," Leland said.

He says it works.

"We found that employee engagementwas higher than it's ever been," he continued. "Employee retention was higher than it's ever been. And, we were better able to hit our goals each half working on just a Monday-to-Thursday, 32-hour workweek."

A recent study in the United Kingdom might actually prove that working less gets more done.

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"The four-day workweek, to me, is essential to us to accommodate this evolving employee of 2023," New York Institute of Technology Associate Professor of Human Resource Studies Joshua Bienstock said.

The overwhelming majority of the 61 participating companies in the U.K. six-month trial will keep the shorter hours. Around 2,900 workers participated in the trial from June to December in 2022. 

"The idea of giving employees the option of a four-day workweek instead of a five-day workweek may appeal to a lot of employees in the sense that it will reduce the number of days they have to commute. It will help them balance their ever-colliding home-work lives," Bienstock said.

In fact, the U.K. trial found employees were less stressed and had a better work-life balance, and companies reported revenue largely stayed the same during the trial period, and even grew compared with the same six-month period a year earlier. 

Wayne Hochwarter, professor of business administration at Florida State University, says it's too early to assume a four-day workweek would work in the U.S. "I would certainly ask those who are in charge of putting this bill forward if they've ever seen this in practice and have ever had to experience whatever shortcomings they've had with something like this," he said. "So, my personal opinion is that I think we need to pump the brakes a little bit and do a little bit more research."

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Several proposals have been introduced in California, but they have stalled.

According to the Office of State Assemblymember Evan Low, there are plans to reintroduce the bill this year.

"I think these bills can really help employers take the leap," Leland said. "It gives them more motivation and justification to their stakeholders, their boards, their investors to pilot something like this."

In Maryland, if the bill is approved, employees would work a 32-hour week while getting paid the same as if they were working 40 hours per week.

Businesses could get up to $750,000 a year in tax credits so they can pay the same salary to their employees.

"When you see positive results — not just retaining the same level of efficiency — but actually increased output, increased impact from working a four-day workweek, plus you add on top of that tax benefits, that is a win-win for everyone," Leland said.

If the bill in Maryland gets approved, it would become the first state in the U.S. to encourage this practice.