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End of the 5-day workweek? Some states consider legislation making 4-day workweeks more common

4-day workweek laws being considered
CBS News review finds some states considering 4-day workweek laws 03:33

Stay-at-home orders issued at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic gave millions of workers their first taste of flexible work arrangements — and some employers discovered that less can be more. 

Now, there is growing interest among state legislatures — and even Congress — to give employers a chance to try out a four-day workweek. A CBS News review found that at least half a dozen states, to varying degrees, are considering legislation to make four-day workweeks more common.  

Among those states is Maryland, where lawmakers recently introduced a bill proposing a pilot program "for the purpose of promoting, incentivizing, and supporting the experimentation and study of the use of a 4-day workweek by private and public employers." It would allow some employers that participate to claim a tax credit.

Del. Vaughn Stewart, who represents Maryland's 19th district and is one of the bill's sponsors, said if workers can get more rest, they will be able to function better. 

"We're expecting that workers can be at least as productive in a 32-hour week as they are in a 40-hour week," he said.  

John Byrne, CEO of the Baltimore software company Tricerat, said he saw the productivity of his 37 employees and the company's profits increase after making the switch to a 32-hour workweek. 

"We've asked the employees to ruthlessly look at their work, get rid of extraneous meetings, extraneous phone calls, paperwork, things of this nature, and reduce down the amount of wasted work," Byrne said. 

Byrne said his company is now drawing younger employees. 

Employees in four-day workweek studies have reported less stress and less burnout, as well as better physical health. A pilot program in the United Kingdom also found success. More than 90% of the companies that took part in the pilot, led by 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit advocating for a four-day workweek, said they would make a four-day workweek permanent. 

But advocates like Boston College professor Juliet Schor said the idea might require prodding from the government. 

"Historically, time reduction has always involved government," Schor said. 

New legislation in New York, California and in the U.S. Congress would require companies that work employees more than 32 hours a week to pay overtime.  

Similar proposals have failed in the past and some critics have argued that a four-day workweek is not suited for all employers.

Even supporters of the concept acknowledge it's not for everyone.  

"We don't think this is something that every single industry and every single business can do, but that's what we want to study," Stewart said.  

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