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Question Everything: Is a four-day work week sustainable?

Question Everything: Is a four-day work week sustainable?
Question Everything: Is a four-day work week sustainable? 03:54

BOSTON -- Many people just enjoyed a shortened work week following M.L.K. Day on Monday. For some, a four-day workweek is the new normal. A growing number of companies are using it to attract and retain top talent.

It sounds great---but is it sustainable?

WBZ-TV posed the question first to Dr. Juliet Schor, a Boston College professor who has collaborated on an international, multi-phase trial, involving dozens of companies and thousands of employees.

"A four-day work week works. We have now a growing body of evidence showing that companies really like it and they are doing economically very well with it," Schor said.

The findings were remarkable.

"We had phenomenal results on employee outcomes. Well-being, sleep, exercise, mental and physical health, life satisfaction, etc.," said Schor. 

Sixty-seven percent of employees in the trial reported being less burned out. They exercised 23.7 more minutes per week, and 97% wanted the four-day week to continue.

"We were surprised at how big the changes are and how widespread across the labor force we were studying they were," said Schor.

It wasn't just employees that benefited. Companies taking part reported an 8% revenue increase over the course of the six-month trial, and a 37% revenue increase for the six months when compared to the previous year.

WBZ-TV traveled to Swampscott, where town employees have been on a four-day work week for almost a year.

"It's been great," said Amy Sarro, who's spending more time with her three-year-old daughter. "It allows me one day when she's not in preschool so we're saving money there, and I also get to spend the day with her."

Dianne Marchese uses it to help her family too. "I use my Fridays to go to Winthrop to help my mother around the house, to check on her, make sure everything is OK," she said. 

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said the key to making it work is having a plan. "We haven't reduced any of the hours town employees are working, just consolidated them," he said. 

Swampscott employees now work three nine-hour days, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and an 11-hour day on Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m..

"We do work, we work hard because now we've got five days squished into four days but it hasn't been a problem," noted Marchese.

Other strategies for making it work include reassessing meetings, eliminating distractions, and looking for other efficiencies. If companies can do that, the results speak for themselves.

"You couldn't pay us enough to go somewhere and work five days now," said Sarro. 

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