Pros and Cons of a 30-Hour Work Week

Sponsored by What's this?
Friends laughing at dinner

WOWstockfootage / Getty Images

The 40-hour work week has been standard in the U.S. for more than 80 years. But a number of companies and countries are trying out or adopting 30- or 32-hour work weeks.

Since 2016, has been using a 30-hour workweek for some groups. In exchange for a more flexible schedule and reduced work hours, the employees agreed to a 25% pay cut but could retain all of their employee benefits.

Other places have tried a reduced work week without a cut in pay. Kickstarter began an experiment in 2022 in which employees work 32 hours for the same pay as they had before. At Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand estate planning company, workers have a 30-hour work week without reduced pay.And Buffer, a U.S. tech company, started offering a 32-hour work week as an experiment in 2020 and now says 73% of its workforce is able to make that option work.

Key Takeaways

  • Companies and countries that have experimented with shortened work weeks report greater productivity, efficiency, and worker satisfaction.
  • Major disadvantages are that many jobs can't be done well in fewer than 40 hours, or companies could have to hiring more people to cover times when they need workers on duty.
  • Although only a few companies have begun offering shorter work weeks, many more now offer flexible schedules or remote work opportunities.

The Origin of 40-Hour Work Weeks

The notion of eight hours of work, eight hours of leisure, and eight hours of rest each day came from Welsh industrialist and labor rights activist Robert Owen. Later, in order to fight exploitative working hours, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act, which made 40 hours a week the American standard by 1940.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons for both employees and employers of reducing the standard work week to 30 hours per week.

Pros and Cons for Employees


For employees, having a set 30-hour or 32-hour work week may seem like a dream come true—especially if you receive the same pay you made at 40 hours a week. Although you'd have to be very efficient to get all of your work done in fewer hours, having eight hours more every week to yourself could be liberating.

Depending on how the plan were implemented you might be able to choose to work five days each week, but each day would start or end at a more convenient time. Or you could have a three-day weekend every weekend.

Commuters might be able to adjust their schedules so that they could avoid rush hour. Overall, the effect would typically be better physical and mental health, and a better work-life balance.


On the downside, having to compress all of your work into fewer hours could increase your on-the-job stress. Some might find that they're still working more hours to get everything done.

And if the reduced hours came with a smaller paycheck, many people would not be able to participate. Others might choose to work she shortened schedule anyway but feel a lower quality of life because of financial strain.

Pros and Cons for Employees


Having happier workers provides all kinds of benefits for employers.

A shortened workweek could be a strong competitive advantage in a tight labor market. One study found that 63% of business said it was easier to hire and keep good talent with a four-day workweek.

It also may be easier to keep workers engaged when they are on the job. Perpetual Guardian found that measures of leadership, commitment, stimulation and empowerment all were boosted significantly after a two-year period with a 30-hour week.

Other companies have reported employees are more productive and efficient with a shortened workweek. A four-day workweek might reduce the overhead costs of running an office. And the risk of injury, which has been shown to increase when people work more than 12 hours per day, could be lowered.


But for many employers, employees just won't be able to get the same amount of work done in significantly fewer hours. Productivity, quality, or both could suffer.

The situation also could leave certain times uncovered by employees during regular business hours, requiring the hiring of more people.

The End of the Standard 40-Hour Week?

Although most employers don't yet offer anything like a 30-hour workweek, many have begun offering more flexible work schedules and work-from-home options.

Whether working in an office or remotely, employers can establish a set amount of hours that are acceptable and prove to be most productive. Employees can choose careers that offer them the freedom to work when and where they feel they are at their peak of productivity. Working fewer hours also can help reduce burnout, but it could put added stress and pressure on people who don’t manage their time well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does it mean to work 30 hours a week?

A 30-hour work week allows employees to work fewer hours a week, which could be split up into four days or still be spread over five days but with fewer hours per day. Depending on the employer, workers may earn less pay or still make the same salary they had with a 40-hour work week.

How would a 30-hour work week affect employee benefits?

It wouldn't need to affect them at all. Many companies define full-time employees as those who work at least 30 hours a week, so as long as that standard is met, benefits wouldn't need to change. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to offer health insurance to employees who work if they are full time, which is defined by working an average of 30 hours per week.

Updated by Yasmin Ghahremani
Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Fast Company. "Kickstarter CEO: Here's Why We're Trying Out a 4-Day Workweek."

  2. Perpetual Guardian. "The Four Day Week Is Here."

  3. Buffer. "A Year and a Half Later, Here's How the Four Day Workweek is Going at Buffer."

  4. U.S. Department of Labor. "Chapter 3: The Department in the New Deal and World War II 1933-1945."

  5. 4 Day Week Global. "Guidelines for an Outcome-Based Trial - Raising Productivity and Engagement." Page 7.

  6. A E Dembe, J B Erickson, R G Delbos, S M Banks. "The impact of overtime and long work hours on occupational injuries and illnesses: new evidence from the United States." Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

  7. Society for Human Resources Management. "Are We Legally Required to Offer Benefits to Part-Time Employees?"

Related Articles