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Congressman Mark Takano Talks About His Dream For A Four-Day Workweek

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at July 30, 2021

Democratic Congressman Mark Takano has joined a growing movement to push for a four-day workweek. In an interview with Takano, he said, “I’ve been dreaming about this.” 

Takano introduced legislation on Wednesday that would reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours. “A shorter workweek would benefit both employers and employees alike,” he said. Takano pointed out, “Pilot programs run by governments and businesses across the globe have shown promising results, as productivity climbed and workers reported better work-life balance, less need to take sick days, heightened morale, and lower childcare expenses because they had more time with their family and children.” 

After about a year and half of coping with Covid-19, Takano, similar to many Americans, started questioning the way in which we work. Pre-pandemic, it was a given that you’d commute to work, spend hours in an uncomfortable office, stand on your feet all day at a restaurant or lug heavy boxes around a warehouse fulfillment center. “There must be a better way,” he thought.

The congressman lamented the Covid-related casualties. “Losing over 600,000 does something to our nation. You look down the road of your mortality,” he said. The tragedy makes us think about alternatives to what we’ve done before. 

Without meaning to do it, the outbreak gave us the largest global experiment in remote work. The trial worked out amazingly well. People working at home were highly productive. Companies did very well. The stock market hit record highs. The economy boomed, jobs came back and real estate prices soared.

This shows that we don’t have to work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in an office, five days a week. Blue-collar workers can have other options, especially as there is a war for talent happening right now. The public has a desire “for change” and “we can’t go back to normal,” the representative said optimistically. “We have to come back to a better new normal.” 

Conducting research for his legislation that calls for a 32-hour, four-day workweek, Takano looked into countries and companies that have tried this format. A recent study of 2,500 workers in Iceland—more than 1% of the workforce—was conducted to see if shortened work days led to more productivity and a happier workforce. Based upon the stellar results, Icelandic trade unions negotiated for a reduction in working hours. The study also led to a significant change in Iceland, where nearly 90% of the working population now has reduced hours or other accommodations. Worker stress and burnout lessened. There was an improvement in work-life balance among the respondents

He also looked to efforts made in Japan, Spain and New Zealand. The congressman referred to a study from the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization, which showed that long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000.” The large number of strokes and heart disease resulted from working “at least 55 hours a week.” 

He says the plan is “bold and modest.” This means that Takano understands that this program isn’t necessarily meant to happen overnight. It will be a process. There will be kinks to work out. Since other countries and companies have tried out shortened workweeks, there is a history to learn from.

It’s pretty clear that Americans are worn out and tired. Working less hours, but getting paid the same or more is an attractive concept. His plan calls for making 32 hours the standard. When a person works more than 32 hours, they will receive overtime pay. 

The theory is that workers will have choices. A working mother with children may opt to work fewer hours. Another person would want the extra money and put in much longer hours.

There is still a lot to flesh out. Companies may decide to only offer up to 30 hours of work to keep under the 32-hour threshold. If this legislation passes, fast-food restaurant chains, supermarkets, warehouses and other businesses that employ larger numbers of workers may elect to deploy new technologies and software, in lieu of people. We’ve already seen this happen. Go to almost any large retail store and you’ll see more self-serve checkout counters than before. Small mom-and-pop businesses that operate on razor-thin margins may not be able to afford the extra overtime expenses. 

Takano posted his proposals on his Facebook page and received a wide array of responses. Some people loved the idea and others were highly skeptical. 

Bradley S.

“Now this is something I can get behind.”

Marlyss W.

“YOU GO MARK! BRAVO! Thank you for being there!”

Erik N.

“I do like the idea, but maybe first raise the minimum wage to cover average cost of living and tie it to inflation. Also, it would be necessary to lower housing prices because most people’s paychecks just go to landlords. Otherwise, this proposition will only force people to pick up 3rd or 4th jobs. Most employers would rather shoot themselves in the foot than give a penny of overtime. A livable wage on a four-day workweek in California, with all things being as they are now, would be around $50 [an hour].”

Kevin J.

“I love the idea, but if my employer cut my hours from 40 hours to 32 because of this new law and they didn’t want to pay overtime, I would have to find a 3rd job, as 32 hours wouldn’t cover my bills. Hence, I would probably be working even more.”

Alicia O.

“Have you considered the impact this will have on small businesses?”

Julie V.

“All this is going to do is screw workers. They’ll get cut off at 32 hours at the same wage. People have bills to pay and this will prevent people from getting the hours they need to pay their bills. Businesses are not going to want to pay overtime. Are you trying to increase poverty in this state?”

Jorge E

“Why dont you create a bill that gets rid of the tax on overtime pay? Now, I would vote for that and so [would] a lot of people.”

Edward D. 

“Sounds good, but then employers won’t have to offer medical insurance. Most require 35 hours a week to be eligible.”

Julie B.

“Excellent idea. Studies have shown that workers are even more productive with a shorter work week. Besides, American consumer products have followed this tactic in recent years: reduced the ounces in ice cream, but kept the price the same—smaller packages and contents, but same price. If it works for business, it ought to work for labor. It is important to try out new concepts, in effort to improve the lives of people. Takano should be applauded for championing legislation that could offer a better life and work balance. With the extra hours gained back, people can spend it with their spouses, partners and children. They’ll have more time for hobbies, reconnecting with friends, taking care of sick relatives, going to the gym or just relaxing by the beach.”

It’s understandable that companies may push back, as they’ll have to pay more money in overtime or will circumvent the law, if it’s passed by depressing the hours available for workers or using new technologies, artificial intelligence or robotics. Similar to what has occurred with previous attempts at an abbreviated workweek, there will have to be adjustments and some give and take along the way.


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