Maryland Wants to Be the First US State to Switch to a 4-Day Work Week
The world’s largest four-day work week trial started in the UK last summer. 3,300 people began working 80 percent of their regular hours for 100 percent of their wages. The feedback from employees and companies was consistently positive; People felt more productive and less stressed, and some companies even found their financial performance improved.
Meanwhile, a similar trial took place in the US and other English-speaking countries (Australia, Ireland, UK, New Zealand and Canada), in which 903 employees in 33 companies were given back one day a week in exchange for consistent work output. This pilot project was also a complete success: 96.9 percent of the participants voted to stick with a four-day week instead of going back to five days. The employees’ self-assessed work performance improved, as did their “satisfaction across several areas of life”.
The message is clear: a four-day week works. people like it. companies like it. Everyone is happier and there is no drop in productivity or impact on financial performance. Now that we’re all in agreement, what’s next?
The state of Maryland is the first US state to take a step toward standardizing the four-day workweek. A proposed law would give tax credits to companies that implement a 32-hour workweek without cutting their employees’ wages. They would receive $750,000 a year in credits for up to two years if they downsize at least 30 employees to a shorter work week.
The tax credit would be used in part to help companies defray the cost of collecting data about the process and reporting it to the state. The state would have to bear the costs of administering the program, which could be as much as $250,000 per year.
What’s in it for the state? It seems a bit counterintuitive for a state government to encourage its citizens to work less. What about economic growth and competitiveness?
Unfortunately, as we have learned from the chaotic job market of recent years, it is difficult to grow the economy when millions of people are dissatisfied with their jobs and are leaving them voluntarily. The instability and labor shortage that this brings must be more damaging than working one day less per week—especially when that one day improves employee satisfaction.
That’s job satisfaction and general life satisfaction. Less time behind a desk means more time doing what you enjoy, whether it’s spending time with family, exercising, or working on personal projects — and ideally, it means you’re happier, more motivated, at Get the job done and less likely to quit in a barrage of frustration and stress.
“We have a real opportunity here to create a win-win situation,” said Vaughn Stewart, the Maryland state delegate who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives after learning about the global process. “We can reduce hours worked without sacrificing productivity, and potentially even increase companies’ bottom line because they have improved not only productivity but also employee retention and hiring.”
The Maryland Legislature will hold hearings on the bill this month. If passed, it would be the first of its kind in the United States and the first official change to the workweek since 1940, when the federal government changed the minimum standard from 44 hours to 40 hours.
Stewart is cautiously optimistic, noting that he has generated more interest in this bill than any other bill he has sponsored since becoming a member of the Maryland House of Representatives four years ago.
If signed into law, the Maryland four-day work week pilot would go into effect on July 1.
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