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The Future of Work is Four-Day Workweeks.

Why Common Future is partnering with WorkFour to help drive America’s transition to a four-day workweek.

Authors: Joi Edwards, Manager of Storytelling and Insights, Cristina Diaz-Borda, Editorial Manager

In 1866, the then National Labor Union called on Congress to mandate an eight-hour workday and other labor reforms. In 1922, Henry Ford instituted a 40-hour, five-day workweek. With minimal improvements in the interim, one-third of U.S. workers took their frustrations to the frontlines, sparking a union boom that improved more conditions for the working class than ever before. Though in 1965—after workers saw increased wages, improved conditions, and better benefits—conversations about implementing a four-day workweek emerged, the last time our country saw a substantial win for working time was 1940, when Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act mandating a standard 40 to 44-hour workweek. 

In the decades since corporate power has tightened its grip. From 1979 to 2020, net productivity rose 61.8%, while the hourly pay of typical workers grew far slower—increasing only 17.5% over four decades. Workers are producing more than ever, but haven’t been earning a wage or salary reflective of that work, and the data shows that we’re paying the price. As a society, we’re more educated, and more productive than ever before—but we’re also in the midst of an exhaustion epidemic and mental health crisis. 

As a result,  worker frustration rose to a crescendo until the summer of 2023, when hundreds of thousands of overworked Americans used their collective power to send a message to employers who continue to profit over people. When the United Automobile Workers (UAW) took center stage in the fight for worker power, it reignited support for the working class in a way we hadn’t seen in decades. But heads really turned when in addition to higher pay, better conditions, and labor protections, they also made a bid for a four-day workweek.

Last year, when interviewed about our—then year-old—four-day workweek pilot our VP of People Operations, Joann Lee Wagner explained that the challenge of a four-day workweek, “is about grappling with your own assumptions around work.” 

Upon learning that Common Future operates a four-day workweek, most reactions are varied, and for the most part—a predictable spread of hope or excitement and just as frequently curiosity or skepticism. For many, a four-day workweek sounds more like a reward than a solution—but therein lies what we need to unlearn.

Joann went on to explain that many, “come in with a perfectionist mindset to achieve the American dream.” From a young age, we’re rewarded for working harder, faster, and smarter than everyone else. Before most of us even learn how to tie our shoes, we’re already conditioned to believe that our value is something we must earn. 

The result is a society living in survival mode. Operating at your “personal best” every single day is not only unrealistic, it’s exhausting. Burnout is now an epidemic—and executives have reported that it’s happening to workers at all levels. 

And while employers are left questioning what workers want, they should be listening to what workers—all workers, regardless of industry—need: time. It is time that allows more power, choice, and ownership over their futures. 


The Human Case for the Four-day Workweek

When making the case for a four-day work week, folks often attempt to make it one benefitting the business through increased productivity, lessened burnout, increased employee retention, and lowered overhead. Admittedly, our data showed these very trends. But the truth is the case for a four-day workweek comes from the benefits to society at large—especially when it comes to equity.

When workers have more time, they can best choose how they want to spend it. Maybe it’s about getting adequate rest, pursuing their hobbies, or taking care of their loved ones—all anecdotally reported by Common Future staff during our initial pilot.  One less day of work can help workers cut costs when it comes to caregiving or commuting. More time to recharge reinforces our overall well-being, which we know research shows increases our focus and efficiency. 

Since transitioning to a four-day workweek model at Common Future, we’ve learned so much about what efficiency actually looks like for an organization like ours—a fully-remote organization with team members in every U.S. region, and across 15 U.S. states. We’ve spoken at length about the many changes we’ve undergone over the past 5 years to get where we are today, and like anything else worth having, it has come with its fair share of challenges. 

But what we’ve discovered through all of this, is that working less has allowed us to create and reimagine so much more. It’s because we don’t work a 40-hour week that we can show up fully, and produce work that we can be proud of. 


Common Future x WorkFour

It is with that in mind, that we are proud to announce today that after adopting a four-day workweek model in 2021, we are partnering with WorkFour to drive America’s transition to a four-day workweek. WorkFour leads the national campaign for the four-day, 32-hour workweek—with no loss of pay for all workers and families.

WorkFour was established to provide a central home for policymakers, employers, workers, and advocates to advance an equitable transition to a four-day workweek—uniting two existing efforts: 4 Day Week U.S. and the 4 Day Week Campaign. 

“We’re thrilled to partner with WorkFour to help drive America’s transition to a four-day workweek,” said our co-CEO Jennifer Njuguna—who led our transition to a four-day workweek in 2021. “The paradigm of work is shifting, and a 32-hour workweek is becoming a necessary adaptation. People are pushing back against workplaces that don’t factor in their realities. Employers can make things more equitable by thinking about the experiences that people are having, whether that’s burnout or childcare, and being more responsive.”

"Our vision and mandate at WorkFour is clear: a four-day, 32-hour workweek with no loss of pay in every workplace in America. We have a fierce belief in building the movement for the four-day workweek because countless workplaces across the country have already proven it is a triple-dividend policy that benefits everyone—workers, companies, and society,” said WorkFour Executive Director Vishal Reddy. “With improvements in automation, a climate in crisis, and an epidemic of burnout, the moment has arrived for us to scale this movement in 2024. We’re proud to partner with Common Future to build a future where we work to live, not live to work.”


It’s time to set a new normal.


Those of us working to close the seismic gaps in our economy know that this is the long game. We can model the future we want to see, and be stewards of our shared future. Like everything else that follows social order, the future of work will follow suit. For many, a four-day workweek is hard to imagine. But progress requires the work of many over time.  

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