This State Wants to Make Every Week a 4-Day Work Week

Well, guess we’re all moving to Maryland.
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Americans are overworked. Workers in the U.S. report being more dissatisfied with their jobs than ever, Americans take fewer vacations and work longer hours than most Europeans, and health problems related to workplace stress kill thousands of us every year

But a group of lawmakers in Maryland want to encourage employers to give people in their state a three-day weekend in perpetuity, introducing a new bill “promoting, incentivizing, and supporting the experimentation and study” of a four-day workweek in private companies and government agencies. The pilot program would run for a total of five years; if the legislation is signed into law, Maryland would become the first state to have an official policy encouraging the adoption of a four-day workweek. 


The bill, the “Four Day Workweek Act of 2023,” would offer a one-time tax credit of up to $750,000 to participating companies and require participating government agencies to share data with the state Department of Labor so the impact of the shift can be studied. In order to be eligible for the tax credit, the companies must actually reduce work hours with “no reduction in pay or benefits.” 

Del. Vaughn Stewart, a progressive Democrat from Montgomery County, told VICE News that one of the biggest complaints he heard from constituents on the campaign trail last year was that they’re working longer hours and struggling more to pay their bills.

“I would say one of the most common things you hear from people is that they feel like they’re working more, and they’re getting less, and the price of things keeps going up,” Stewart said. “Regardless of where you are on the ideological spectrum or political party, people want to have more time off from their job.”

“Regardless of where you are on the ideological spectrum or political party, people want to have more time off from their job.”

A 2016 Pew poll found that American workers were working on average a half hour longer per week and nearly four weeks longer per year than they were in 1980—adding up to an entire extra month of work per year. A study published in 2019, looking at data from the U.S. and 18 European nations spanning more than 30 years, found that the average European worked 14 percent fewer hours than the average American. 


The group 4 Day Week Global ran an international six-month pilot program last year involving 33 companies, mostly in the U.S. and Ireland. At the end of the study, 97 percent of employees said they wanted to continue on the four-day schedule, and more than 80 percent said they wouldn’t willingly go back to a five-day workweek without a significant pay increase, according to the Society for Human Resources Management

The companies that provided data recorded a 38 percent increase in revenue in 2022 over the same period from 2021, according to CNBC. More than half of the 27 companies that gave feedback at the end of the trial said they would definitely continue using a four-day workweek, and none said they were actively planning on discontinuing the trial, CNBC reported. 

Stewart told VICE News Wednesday that the results of the study “blew [him] away” and inspired him to introduce a similar effort in Maryland. 

“The time is now,” Stewart said. “People have been talking about this for a long time, but we’ve never had such robust data about how this is a win-win for both workers and companies.”

Though the five-day workweek has been the norm for nearly a century, there once were hopes and even real legislative efforts to reduce the time Americans spent working even further. There was a push to reduce working hours to 30 per week as part of the New Deal and a bill even passed the Senate, before President Franklin D. Roosevelt turned his attention to other workplace reforms, such as a ban on child labor. The Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, added requirements that most employees working more than 40 hours per week were entitled to overtime pay. 


“The time is not far distant when the working man can have a four-day week and family life will be even more fully enjoyed by every American,” then-Vice President Richard Nixon said in a campaign speech in 1956, calling hopes for such quality of life improvements “not dreams or idle boasts, simply projections of the gains we have made in the past four years.”

That transition obviously never happened. But attitudes toward work began to shift during the COVID-19 pandemic. California’s Democratic-controlled legislature considered a bill last year that would have required businesses to pay overtime for more than 32 hours worked per week, though the legislation stalled. Rep. Mark Takano of California introduced a similar bill in the House in 2021, which was cosponsored by more than a dozen House Democrats, but that bill did not receive a hearing. 

“Here in Maryland, that would just not fly realistically or politically,” Stewart said of the California bill. “I’m generally not a huge fan of corporate tax credits, but I think in this case... we’re hoping that a little bit of an income tax credit for a year could be just the inducement.”

But a small number of companies have begun experimenting with a four-day work week on their own. One of them is Tricerat, a Baltimore-based print management company, whose CEO John Byrne announced a switch to a four-day workweek in late 2021


“It’s been a smashing success for us so far… just the general well-being of the staff, everybody seems to be more relaxed,” Byrne told VICE News. One recent Glassdoor review of the company from an employee praised the “amazing work-life balance” and said the four day week “gives considerable flexibility and really allows for you to spend more quality time with family,” though the employee added that “your four days are pretty full and you stay busy keeping up with it all.”

“It’s been a smashing success for us so far… everybody seems to be more relaxed.”

Byrne also said the switch has helped with retention. “We've got employees who absolutely will not leave our employ because of this type of benefit,” Byrne said. “It costs a lot of money to spin up new employees and train them and get them into the positions you need to be working productively. It’s always better if you can hold onto your talent.”

Kickstarter, the project crowdfunding site, launched a four-day week as part of an effort called 4 Day Week U.S. last year; Jon Leland, the company’s chief strategy officer, also serves as the global campaign director for 4 Day Week.

Leland told VICE News that a normal workweek at Kickstarter is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday, though weeks with holidays that fall on a Monday are usually Tuesday through Friday. Employees aren’t expected to work more than 32 hours a week; Leland said a 40-hour, four-day workweek would be a “condensed five-day workweek,” or more bluntly, a “shitty four-day workweek.” 


Leland told VICE News that Kickstarter, whose employees voted to form a union in 2020, has seen similarly positive results from the trial period, particularly with regard to retention. 

“We’re a prominent company but we’re not that big. Losing just one or two people could set a team back three to six months,” Leland said. (Kickstarter has slightly more than 100 employees, according to Leland).

“It’s just immensely disruptive to lose people. And we don’t lose people anymore,” he said. “Everyone is pretty much just as productive, and we no longer lose people. So as a whole, we are way more productive.”

Leland and Byrne said they both support the effort in Maryland, and hope other states follow suit. “It’s going to take us a while to get there, but I really do think it’s where the future of work is headed in this country,” Byrne said. 

Stewart’s bill was introduced with eight cosponsors, and a companion bill has been introduced in the Maryland Senate by state Sen. Shelly Hettleman, a Democrat from Baltimore County. While the bill is just beginning a long road toward potential passage—it’s set to receive committee hearings next month—Stewart said he’s optimistic about the legislation’s chances.  


Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2020 giving the Maryland General Assembly more control over the budget process, and Gov. Wes Moore’s victory in November gave Democrats their first state trifecta in Maryland since 2014. 

“I think [the chances of passage] are decent. I’m not taking any victory laps yet," Stewart said. "We're only asking for $750,000 in tax credits, so we’re not really breaking the bank. But anytime you want to spend money, you gotta compete against a million other priorities.”

But Stewart said the attention the bill has received already shows that it’s struck a chord with workers. 

“I’ve never seen so much chatter about a bill that wasn’t clearly a leadership priority,”  Stewart said. “It’s easy to understand and it’s universal—nobody wants to work more hours.”

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