Bernie Sanders wants the US to adopt a 32-hour workweek. Could workers and companies benefit?

Bernie Sanders Advocates for 32-Hour Workweek: Exploring Potential Benefits for Employees and Employers

In Washington, D.C., there’s a new conversation about the traditional 40-hour workweek that’s been the norm for over 80 years. Some lawmakers are proposing a change to give hourly workers an extra day off.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent known for his progressive views, has introduced a groundbreaking bill. This legislation aims to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours, ensuring workers receive overtime pay beyond this limit.

Sanders argues that with the advancements in technology, such as automation and artificial intelligence, companies can afford to offer more leisure time without cutting salaries or benefits. However, some argue that this change could pressure companies to hire more staff or face a drop in productivity.

The essence of Sanders’ proposal is to adjust the workweek from 40 to 32 hours without reducing employee compensation. This change would effectively extend the weekend for many, offering an extra day of rest or personal time. The plan is to implement these changes gradually over four years, with Sanders spearheading discussions in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

A study in the UK involving British companies that shifted to a 32-hour workweek found that employees were less stressed and more focused, with no negative impact on company revenues. In fact, some companies even saw an increase in earnings.

In 2022, a significant experiment involving 61 companies and 2,900 workers demonstrated the benefits of reduced work hours, including decreased burnout and higher job satisfaction among employees. Some companies reported a notable increase in revenue following the trial.

Critics, however, caution that a shorter workweek might not be feasible for all sectors, especially those requiring physical presence, like manufacturing. They argue that the concept, while appealing, may not translate well across all industries.

Despite the potential challenges and opposition from some political quarters, Sanders is using his platform to push for a shift that he believes will make corporations more accountable to their employees. He advocates for a world where technological advancements benefit not just the top executives but the working people, proposing a 32-hour workweek as a step in that direction.

The concept of regulating work hours has a long history, dating back to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which set the 40-hour workweek standard. This law was the culmination of decades of labor union advocacy for better working conditions and more balanced lives for workers.

The movement for shorter work hours has roots going back to the 1830s, with significant milestones like President Grant’s eight-hour workday order for government workers in 1869 and the adoption of a 40-hour week by Henry Ford in 1926, well before it became a federal mandate.

These historical efforts underscore the ongoing struggle for workers’ rights and the importance of time—not just compensation—in achieving a balanced life.