California takes a giant step toward making the 4-day workweek dream a reality

April 12, 2022, 9:00 AM UTC

Legislators in California are attempting to fulfill the dreams of countless workers and are taking steps toward enshrining a four-day workweek into law.

A new bill introduced in the state assembly, known as AB 2932, aims to lower the maximum threshold for overtime pay from 40 hours to 32 hours for companies with over 500 employees in the state. Assembly members Cristina Garcia and Evan Low coauthored the bill, which has not yet been set for a hearing.

“We’ve seen over 47 million people voluntarily leave their jobs for better opportunities. We’re seeing a labor shortage across the board from small to big businesses,” Garcia told Fortune. “And so it’s very clear that employees don’t want to go back to normal or the old way, but to rethink and go back to [something] better.” 

She added that while catered meals or game rooms might have been enough for companies to  attract workers in the past, she believes they want more now. 

“They are looking for a healthier work/life balance. They want to feel less stress.”

The idea of a four-day workweek has been gaining steam for years, but the pandemic and the subsequent so-called Great Resignation have dramatically expanded popular interest. And now, even politicians are getting serious about it. Advocates like Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit established to promote the idea of a four-day workweek, told Fortune that the California bill is significant.

“A bill such as this puts the idea of reduced work time on the legislative agenda in a way that wasn’t previously the case,” he said. 

He argues the five-day workweek persists as a cultural norm despite decades-old innovations since the 1980s like email and the internet that have made workers more productive. 

“That has not translated to working less,” he noted. 

But that could be changing. Garcia and Low are not the only California politicians introducing four-day workweek legislation. Last July, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced a similar bill at the federal level.

Takano’s bill found support among progressive labor rights organizations and unions including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the National Employment Law Project (NELP). The bill has yet to be heard in the House.

The new California law is unlikely to pass the statehouse, and the California Chamber of Commerce added it to its “job killer” list

But a slew of companies have announced four-day workweeks over the past few years. With the dissolution of the traditional workplace, employers are now more likely than ever to consider flexible work policies—especially when it seems as if workers have the upper hand and when those policies might ultimately be good for the bottom line.

Social media management software company Buffer initiated a four-day workweek in 2020 as a one-month test trial. The company made it a permanent policy later in the year after employees responded positively, said Hailley Griffs, Buffer’s head of communications and content.

“Folks felt that they were getting the same amount of work done,” Griffs told Fortune. She says that recent internal company data shows that 91% of her team reported feeling happier as a result of the policy change. 

The four-day workweek is especially helpful for Griffs, who became a mother during the pandemic: “I get an extra day that I get to spend with [my daughter] as a baby.” There’s a financial benefit, too: Griffs needs to pay for childcare only Monday through Thursday.

“Very few employers that we speak to would say the four-day workweek can’t work,” O’Connor noted. “The question they’re asking is, can the four-day workweek work for my business?” 

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