A look at some pros and cons of a 32-hour work week

One day can make a difference. Companies are looking to shave a day off the work week in exchange for happier and more productive employees.

Some companies are kicking off their weekends on Thursday. (Getty Images)

Some companies are kicking off their weekends on Thursday. (Getty Images)

The concept of the “compressed work week,” aka a 32-hour week, is slowly gaining traction in the United States. The practice is tried and true in countries like the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, where employees work between 29-33 hours per week. Advocates point to these countries’ success and hope U.S. companies will jump on the bandwagon.

Research suggests that a shorter work week yields a number of advantages, including happier employees, increased productivity and cost savings — benefits that have prompted some companies to make the switch.

KPMG made headlines in 2009 when the company announced its plans to institute a compressed work week as a cost saving measure. Since then, KPMG began offering a paid 4-day work week to employees seeking more flexible work schedules. In an interview with CNN Money, Barbara Wankoff, KPMG’s director of workplace solutions, talked about benefits of the 4-day work week for both the company and its staff.

“We recognize it’s a win-win for the company and the employees. Their satisfaction goes way up when they have control over their time,” she said. “And it increases employee morale and productivity and retention.”

In a fireside chat at the Khosla Ventures Summit, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page discussed how shortening the week can give employees what they want most, work-life balance.

“Most people, if I ask them would you like an extra week of vacation, 100 percent would raise their hands,” he said. “Two weeks or a four-day work-week? They’d raise their hands. Most people like working but they also want more time with their families or their interests. We should have a coordinated way to adjust the work week.”

Not everyone is on board with the shortened work week. Dan Hamermesh an economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin and thought leader on the topic of the compressed work week considers its trade-offs.

“If everyone starts working fewer hours, less work will get done economy-wide, and collectively employers aren’t going to pay workers the same amount for that reduced output,” Hamermesh said in said in the same interview with CNN Money.

As the debate continues, the 32-hour work week remains one of the coveted quirks or perks offered by a small proportion of corporations, startups and small businesses.

Kia Croom