Let's ditch the 5-day workweek and the 8-hour workday, says a professor writing a book on how to fix work
Robert Bruno, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley says that Americans are becoming more conscious about the importance of personal time and suggests that shorter workweeks and longer days may help to ease labor shortages. Bruno, a labor and employment relations professor at the
The hottest work trend right now is
The four-day work-week is once again gaining traction, as yet another pilot program
Workers were less stressed and less burned out.
, and companies were bringing in more revenue.
Robert Bruno, a labor professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Project for Middle Class Renewal director, is not surprised at the results. Bruno is currently writing a book about the current state and ways to improve it called "The Current State of Work".
What Work Is
Based on the experiences of workers, "
Insider told him that if you create work environments where people want to go to work and aren't resentful or distracted, everyone will do much better."
Bruno thinks it's time for a shorter workweek — both in hours and days. With so many workers not content in the current state of work, or opting to stay on the sidelines, the curtain has been pulled back on the state of work, he said. Shaking up the workweek, and making it more responsive to what workers actually want, could help ease labor shortages.
"Record levels of workers have stayed out of the labor market, or they're constantly shifting jobs. And almost always, if you pay close attention, they are speaking to how much control that their working hours had over their life, and they wanted to renegotiate that. They have a different consciousness about it," Bruno said. In addition to companies in the UK trial seeing revenues up, while workers are better rested, anecdotally, four-day workweeks have boosted
This saves companies from
having to scramble to hire more
One of the biggest themes that's come up in Bruno's research is time — what it means to workers, and how work controls and defines it for them. Many workers are forced to manage their time so that they're available to work certain hours, while fitting in sleep and personal lives around that. In essence, work schedules control their time.
The harsh reality of the current system is that "the only time that matters is the time that you are creating value for the employer. That's the time that's most important," Bruno said.
"We say the time that's most important is with our kids, right? Who would deny that if you got kids? Or the people we love, or pursuing learning and culture — all that stuff, we say, well, that's the most important time," he said. "And people say that in surveys all the time — but the reality is the time that's really determinant is a time we're paid for."
For the people still on the sidelines, or those constantly reshuffling out of roles, that's not going to cut it anymore. People do want to work, Bruno said, but they don't want to be resentful about being there. When it comes to a shorter workweek, Bruno said, "I'm very confident it would bring people in, because what are you saying to those people? You're saying, look, we hear you."
"I think that if employers began to offer those opportunities, and maybe we do some pilots, you do some experimenting, you give it a shot — I think those employers are gonna attract the talent that they need," he added.
A renewed opportunity and push for better
The US has attempted to shorten the workweek before, Bruno notes. In 1933, the Senate passed a bill to bring the workweek down to 30 hours; as the
Washington Post reports
, that legislation was supported by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It would've made the workweek five days a week, but just for six hours a day.
However, that never came to fruition. Predictions — like those of
John Maynard Keynes
— that Americans would work drastically shorter weeks in the future, as technology advances, have proven to be wrong. Bruno said that, at least over the last four decades, we've given up on reducing the workweek, "and we've done so to our detriment."
But now the tides might be shifting.
The results of a
sweeping pilot program
in the UK, where 2,900 workers across 61 companies shifted to a shorter workweek at the same rate of pay, has dominated headlines — and changed those companies for good, with 92% continuing on with a four-day workweek and 18 total companies making it a permanent change. Senator Bernie Sanders is
A shorter work week is desirable
; Rep. Mark Takano has
reintroduced his proposal
to make a 32-hour workweek law in the US.
Bruno thinks that it might even be time to assess whether days should be eight hours, harkening back to Keynes' 15-hour weeks. There's "no reason" for work to be everything, to be thought about in a resigned, mournful way, Bruno said.
"We kid ourselves, if we say, 'Yeah, but I'm paid for eight hours; if I don't work eight hours, the employer won't hire me because, that's what I have to contribute in order for the employer to afford me,'" Bruno said. "Well, what if that isn't true? What if that's never been true? It certainly isn't true with all the technology. Why couldn't we use that technology in ways that reduce the actual need for us to be on the job?"
Bruno believes that we are moving in the right direction, given the renewed interest in reducing the amount of time work takes.
"This does feel like a moment, and, why not? We went through a huge trauma and that shakes things up," Bruno said. "Something good can come of it now."
Have you tried out a shorter workweek or workday? Share your story at