BUSINESS + ECONOMY

4-day workweeks may be around the corner. A third of America’s companies are exploring them

Apr 12, 2024, 11:30 AM

A man sits at an office computer - Companies are experimenting with a four day workweek...

Burnout is such a problem for workers that some bosses are considering shrinking the length of the workweek. (shapecharge/E+/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(shapecharge/E+/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

New York (CNN) — Burnout is such a problem for workers that some bosses are considering shrinking the length of the workweek.

Nearly one-third (30%) of large US companies are exploring new work schedule shifts such as four-day or four-and-a-half-day workweeks, according to a KPMG survey of CEOs released this week.

The findings show how some executives are searching for ways to attract and retain talent in a red hot job market where many employees feel over-worked and underpaid.

“We are all working to figure out what is optimal, and we will continue to experiment and pivot,” Paul Knopp, chair and CEO of KPMG US, told CNN in an interview.

Many workers say they would love a shorter work week.

full 77% of US workers said a four-day, 40-hour workweek would have a positive impact on their wellbeing, according to a Gallup poll released in November. That includes 46% who said it would have an “extremely positive” effect.

The good news for workers is that some studies of four-day workweeks in the United States and Europe have found positive results for well-being and productivity among workers.

However, Knopp said it would be premature to definitively say this approach is gaining traction.

“It’s way too early to declare the four-day work week part of the future. It’s still in the experimentation phase,” he said.

CEOs are still trying to understand how such an approach would work, how it would impact the mental and physical health of employees and whether it drives down costs by creating healthier environments.

Some companies that have experimented with shorter workweeks are sticking with it.

In the United Kingdom, a large majority of companies that took part in the world’s biggest trial of a four-day workweek were still letting employees work a shorter week a year later. More than half had even made the change permanent.

Related: Most workers would make sacrifices for a four-day workweek

Will AI shorten the workweek?

Of course, a shorter workweek may not work everywhere.

Knopp said that while a four-day workweek could make sense in finance, marketing and some other office jobs, it may not in industries like healthcare where there are labor shortages.

“My guess is a widespread four-day workweek could be years away – if ever,” he said. “You’ll see companies quietly experimenting with it, but I don’t personally foresee widespread adoption in the next couple of years.”

However, Knopp said artificial intelligence may allow bosses to embrace shorter workweeks because the technology should make workers more efficient.

Not only can AI automate mundane and routine tasks such as building presentations, crafting emails and writing reports, in the future it will get better at even more complex activities.

“It’s possible that generative AI might make the four-day workweek more realistic,” Knopp said.

In fact, the KPMG survey found that 61% of US CEOs are encouraging employees to use generative AI to automate mundane tasks to relieve stress and manage their workloads.

Billionaire investor Steve Cohen told CNBC this month that he’s confident a four-day workweek is coming – especially with the advent of AI. Cohen said he invested in a startup golf league partly on the belief that people will have more time on Fridays.

“I think I would have done the golf investment anyway, because I think there’s a longer-term thought, but my belief is a four-day work week is coming,” he said.

‘Hybrid is here to stay’

And in a win for workers, bosses appear to be dialing back their demands for workers to return to full-time in-office work.

Just 34% of the US CEOs polled by KPMG said they envision corporate employees who were traditionally based in the office to be back in the physical workplace five days a week in the next three years. That’s down from 62% just a year ago.

Instead, 46% of CEOs see these roles being hybrid (up from 34% in 2023), and 3% expect them to be fully remote, KPMG said.

“The views of employees haven’t changed. They want more flexibility. Now there is more recognition from CEOs that hybrid is here to stay,” Knopp said.

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4-day workweeks may be around the corner. A third of America’s companies are exploring them