HARRISBURG (KDKA) - A state representative says it's time for Pennsylvania to consider a 32-hour workweek for state employees – and the rest of us, too.
It's a debate that's been going on for years that may now be reaching a conclusion.
In the early 20th century, Americans worked six days a week, usually ten hours a day. Henry Ford changed all that nearly a hundred years ago, mandating a five-day, 40-hour workweek on his assembly lines at the Ford Motor Company.
Now many say it's long overdue for Americans to work a four-day, 32-hour week.
"There have been studies that have shown that it has increased productivity, but it also increases our wellness, how happy we are, our ability to enjoy life," state Rep. Chris Rabb told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday. "I mean, no one's on their deathbed and said, 'I wish I went to the office more.' That's never happened."
Rabb, a Philadelphia Democrat, is introducing a resolution to study the impact of moving state employees to a four-day, 32-hour workweek and to encourage the private sector to do the same.
It's a popular idea.
"I feel it's a good one just because a lot of people are overworked, overstressed, and sometimes they're being underpaid," says Allison Mullin of McKeesport.
"I believe reducing work hours is a great thing to improve productivity and morality. I know that a lot of people struggle with going to work full-time, 40 hours," notes Jayme Miller of Downtown.
Iceland has a four-day, 35-hour week. Belgium is moving to a four-day week. Other countries and companies are experimenting with a shorter workweek.
U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, a California congressman, has a bill to reduce the workweek to 32 hours, requiring overtime for hours worked beyond that. But, so far, no Pennsylvania member of Congress has co-sponsored this bill.
"Now is the time to make those kinds of changes," says Professor Deborah Good at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Business School.
Good says the pandemic has increased employee demand for flexible work arrangements, making a four-day workweek more likely than ever.
"Many organizations will be much more open to conversations about this, and frankly I think many other organizations that may not be open to those kinds of conversations will be forced into the conversations because it's going to be a competitive advantage for those companies that jump first," says Good.
"The pandemic has forced a new way of life, a new way of work," adds Rabb.
A lot depends on the details. Should 32 hours be paid the same as 40 hours? And while four days of ten-hour days still equals 40 hours, calling 32 hours full-time is too much for some.
"I guess I'm more of an old school person when it comes to that. I worked awfully hard when I first got out of school, sometimes literally 80 hours a week, so only 32 is inconceivable to me," says Brad Carmichael from the South Hills.
While government can lead the way to a shorter workweek, many think it will be employers competing for top talent when there's a worker shortage that will inspire a 21st century Henry Ford to say, "Four days a week is enough."
for more features.