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In our “Breaking Through the Noise” segment, my peers and I discussed our predictions for the future of the workforce (if you want to hear our thoughts, go to timestamp 1:57:54-2:16:49).  One of the trends we discussed was the potential shift to more flexible schedules, including the 4-day workweek.  We are not the only ones that are thinking about this, this is a topic around the world!

A current worldwide decline in both physical and mental health has led employers to examine various strategies to improve employee morale. Many companies have already become increasingly flexible regarding how and where people work (in-person vs. remote work). Interestingly, there could also be a shift in employer receptiveness regarding when people work.

Recently, researchers in Iceland have found that a four-day workweek, without a pay cut, improved workers’ well-being and productivity.

Sponsored by Iceland’s national government, a trial took place between 2015 and 2019 involving 2,500 workers (more than 1% of Iceland’s working population) across a variety of industries who moved from working 40 hours in a week to 35 or 36 hours per week. The hypothesis for the study was that an employee who worked less hours, and received the same pay, would consistently get the same amount of work done in less hours.

The result? An “overwhelming success” according to researchers.

The employees who participated reported a “dramatic” improvement to their well-being and a lower stress level.  There were positive responses from the employers as well – worker productivity improved or remained the same during the trial period. The study suggests that Iceland’s move to the 4-day workweek may become the norm.  86% of workers in Iceland are currently, or on the way to, working four days a week instead of five.

Iceland’s experiment does not stand alone. Major companies like Shake Shack, Shopify, Microsoft Japan, and Unilever have experimented with shortened workweeks and reported similarly positive results. These companies have cited many different reasons for trying out a 4-day workweek, including boosting employee morale, luring talent, increasing productivity, reducing emissions, and cutting costs. Whatever the reason for implementing a 4-day workweek, experiments like these are likely to continue.

Florida employers looking to try out a shortened work schedule should know that any type of change to the typical 5-day, 40 hour week could have employment law implications and should speak with counsel before implementing any new policies.

As my colleague Glenn Rissman wrote about in a past post, a 4-day, 10-hour per day workweek could trigger issues with the Family and Medical Leave Act in instances when an employee takes leave in increments that are less than a full week, because the law assumes a 5-day, 8-hour workday for leave entitlement purposes.

On the flipside, there are drawbacks to a 4-day workweek in certain circumstances. For example, a shortened workweek could result in longer individual workdays for employees, which could lead to the same exhaustion and stress levels that a schedule change seeks to avoid. In addition, a 4-day workweek could create upstream and downstream logistical issues. Suppliers and customers carry the expectation that businesses are open Monday through Friday – so employers will need to adapt a shortened work schedule that either molds to that expectation or changes the behavior of its suppliers and customers altogether. This is especially difficult for service industries like aviation, hospitality, and retail, among others, which make up the backbone of Florida’s economy.

Additionally,  there could be overtime pay implications depending on the state you operate in. The 4-day, 10-hour per day schedule would not create issues with the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act because it only requires employers to pay overtime when a nonexempt employee works more than forty hours in a workweek. However, in several states—including every HR professional’s favorite, California—overtime pay is based on a daily threshold, which is usually eight hours, meaning that the additional 2 hours per day would count as overtime.

Stay tuned to see if a 4-day workweek becomes the norm and how many other predictions my colleagues and I made come true!