A four-day workweek pilot program is now underway in the U.S. and Canada

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The four-day workweek just became a reality for dozens of companies across the U.S. and Canada, at least for the next several months.

The pilot program, being led by 4 Day Week Global, kicked off on Friday and is expected to last six months. Participating organizations include crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and a number of tech companies.

In all, 38 companies in North America are on board, although some started earlier and others will join later when a planned U.K. trial starts on June 1, said Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global. More than 50 British companies with 3,000 employees have signed up for that trial.

The idea is that employees work 80% of the time for 100% of the pay and maintain 100% productivity. It comes down to working more efficiently, including cutting back on unnecessary meetings.

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“More and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, productivity-focused working is the vehicle to give them that competitive edge,” O’Connor said.

Employees are also enthusiastic about the idea. A whopping 92% of U.S. workers are in favor of the shortened workweek, a survey from cloud-software vendor Qualtrics found.

While it’s not a new concept, chatter about the four-day workweek has gained momentum amid the “Great Resignation,” also known as the “Great Reshuffle.” Almost 48 million Americans walked away from their jobs in 2021, and the trend is still in full swing, with nearly 4.4 million workers quitting in February, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The pandemic allowed workers to reevaluate their lives and what they wanted out of a job.

Fully 44% of those considering leaving their employer this year cite better pay as one of the top reasons they want to quit, and 43% cite work-life balance, according to a report from intelligence company Morning Consult. Feeling burned out and wanting flexibility around where and when they work were also top reasons. The findings were based on a January survey of more than 6,600 U.S. adults, including 3,500 employed adults.

For Kickstarter, it’s a way for the company to become more powerful as a group, CEO Aziz Hasan told CNBC in July, shortly after it announced it would be taking part in the pilot.

“It’s really about — if our time and attention is focused as best as it can be in those four days — can we have a more potent impact on the things that we care about from a professional standpoint, so that it opens up so much more range for us personally?” he said.

CEOs cite success

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Some U.S. companies already have a four-day workweek as part of their policies.

For online children’s clothing retailer Primary, it began as a way to address employee burnout in the early days of the pandemic.

The New-York based company noticed an instant change after giving workers Fridays off. People showed up to work on Monday rejuvenated.

“It does feel life-changing, knowing that you have that day to catch up on everything, whether it’s thinking about a hard work problem or grabbing a doctor’s appointment that you haven’t gotten around to,” said Galyn Bernard, Primary’s co-founder and co-CEO.

To be sure, employees appear to be more content. At Buffer, a New York-based social media company, 91% of its team reported they are happier and more productive with a four-day workweek.

Uncharted CEO Banks Benitez also saw a reduction in work stress and burnout after instituting the shortened week in 2020.

“There are so many parts of the workweek that are just a waste of time,” he said.

“It has been a great forcing function for us to think differently, like taking a smaller suitcase on vacation,” he added. “We have to make trade-offs.”

The boost in employee morale also can help companies retain and attract employees.

At outdoor technology company The Wanderlust Group, applications for employment are up 800% from last year, said CEO Mike Melillo. It has around a 98% retention rate and saw last year’s revenue soar 61% year over year, he said.

“The numbers do not lie,” Melillo said. “We’re producing better results than we have in any year prior.”

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that in all, 38 companies in North America are on board, although some started earlier and others will join later, according to 4 Day Week Global.

Sophie Tremblay

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