California is considering a 32-hour workweek for larger companies

Thomas Barwick | Digitalvision | Getty Images

A shortened workweek could become a reality for many California employees.

Legislation is now being worked on by the state legislature which would make the standard working week 32 hours for companies with more than 500 workers. There would be no reduction in wages and those who work more would be compensated at a rate of at least 1.5 times the regular wage of the employee.

“It makes no sense that we are still sticking to a work schedule that served the Industrial Revolution,” Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement.

While the shift is long overdue, the Covid-19 pandemic and “Great Resignation,” also known as the “Great Reshuffle,” have made it clear that the time to make the change is now, she said.

Nearly 48 million Americans lost their jobs last year and the trend is still strong. Nearly 4.4 million workers quit in February alone, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“There has been no correlation between more hours of work and better productivity,” Garcia said.

However, the California Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill, calling it a “job killer” because it would ultimately impose more costs on businesses.

“Labor costs are often one of the highest costs for a business,” Ashley Hoffman, a public policy lawyer at the California Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a letter to Assemblyman Evan Low, another Democratic sponsor of the bill.

“Such a large increase in labor costs will reduce the ability of companies to hire or create new positions and will therefore limit job growth in California.”

four working weekdays

Proponents of the four-day workweek say the same work can be done in the shorter time frame. More companies are now testing it as a way to address employee well-being.

Earlier this month, dozens of companies in the U.S. and Canada began a six-month pilot of a four-day workweek, led by 4 Day Week Global.

The idea is that employees work 80% of the time for 100% of salary and maintain 100% productivity. It comes down to working more efficiently, including cutting back on unnecessary meetings.

“More and more companies are saying that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that working on reduced hours, productivity-focused work is the bike to give them that competitive advantage,” said Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global.

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Among those participating in the North American trial is crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. CEO Aziz Hasan told CNBC in July that it was a way for the company to become more powerful as a group.

“It’s really about – if our time and attention is as well focused as it can in those four days – we can have a stronger influence on the things we care about from a professional point of view, so that it so much more opens up reach for us personally? ” he said.

For those experiencing the short work week during the pandemic, there are no plans to return.

“There are so many parts of the workweek that are just a waste of time,” said Banks Benitez, CEO of Uncharted based in Denver, which will move to a four-day workweek in 2020.

“It has been a very compelling function for us to think differently.”

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