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Employees find balance as some companies cut workweek to 4 days

Growing popularity of the 4-day workweek
Growing popularity of the 4-day workweek | The Shifting Workplace 10:03

Dreaming of a three-day weekend every weekend? For some workers, it's already a reality. 

Elise McCave, head of film Kickstarter, never works on Fridays since the crowdfunding platform shifted to a 32-hour workweek, as more companies experiment with flexible schedules that let employees decide where, when and even how often they work.

Once rare perks at a handful of mostly tech-focused firms, remote and hybrid work are now common in many industries. That new flexibility has made some workers happier and more productive, leading some employers to rethink other norms, such as how often we work and what constitutes a "full-time" schedule.  

"A lot more focused"

In March 2020, when the pandemic first hit, Kickstarter sent all of its workers home to work remotely. Today, the Brooklyn, New York-based company remains a fully remote business. 

Last April, the company made another bold move: It shifted to a four-day, 32-hour workweek, while still paying workers' their full salaries. 

"We're giving people that day off. We kept salaries the same, which we pay above market. We kept benefits the same — we're just giving people back time in their week to get better rest," said Jon Leland, chief strategy officer and head of sustainability for Kickstarter. "And so, when they do come to work, they're just a lot more focused."

Jill Schlesinger's new book on finding work-life balance 04:39

McCave uses the bonus day off from work to get chores done, like doing her taxes or laundry, so that come Monday she's "ready to roll," she told CBS News. McCave also said the truncated workweek gives her a sense of balance after the pandemic upended old work habits. 

Not a new concept

While the idea of a four-day workweek sounds progressive, it isn't. Nearly a century ago, Ford Motor founder Henry Ford determined that manufacturing employees could actually churn out more car parts by working fewer hours. As a result, he trimmed their workweek from six days to five.  

Kickstarter said it, too, is reaping benefits of shorter workers hours.

"So far, we are performing much better than we have historically. Employees are happier. We are a much stronger company at this point," Leland said. 

"And in fact, we're hiring and we're growing at a time when a lot of companies in our industry are laying people off," he added.

Kickstarter isn't alone in trying a four-day workweek. Data from a pilot program claiming to be the largest four-day workweek experiment in the world shows that the shorter workweek can help grow revenue and retain workers. More than 60 companies in the U.K., with a total of roughly 3,000 workers, participated in the trial, which ran from June to December of last year. 

While companies' revenue changed little over the course of the six-month trial, overall revenue during the period was 35% higher on average compared to the same period a year earlier, the findings show. Employee retention rates also rose, while turnover declined.

In all, 92% of the firms in the U.K. study said they would continue to maintain a four-day workweek beyond the trial period. 

"It's going to be good"

Some state and local government in the U.S. are also switching to a four-day workweek. Prospect Park, New Jersey, located roughly 20 miles west of New York City, launched its own trial of a four-day workweek last month. Full-time employees still work 40 hours a week, but condensed into four days; most city workers take Fridays off.

"Prospect Park is a blue-collar town, so people work shift hours," Mayor Mohamed Kairullah told CBS News. "So, now having the opportunity to visit the municipal building up to 6:30 p.m. actually is more convenient for our residents."

Town employees say it's convenient for them, too.

Heidy Amaral, the code enforcement officer for Prospect Park, said the new schedule allows her to spend more time at home with her family. 

"It's great. It gives me more time with my family on Friday. It gives me that extra day in case I just want to travel. So I think it's going to work out. It's going to be good," she said. 

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