The case for a shorter workweek

More than ever, workers want to work fewer hours, saying they can be just as effective in less time – and happier, too. They may be on to something.

we’re living in an age of radical transformation in the workplace. Options like all-remote or hybrid – which were completely unthinkable for most people just two years ago – are now becoming part of work mainstream. The idea of shrinking the workweek is also gaining traction, particularly in light of recent examples of workforces who have successfully trialed a reduced-hours’ week.

A shorter workweek could take various forms. There’s the four-day week, where you reduce your working hours by 20%. There are different models; everyone at a company might take the same day off, or people chose the structure that works for them, like taking two afternoons off. Or you might just reduce the workweek by a certain number of hours, from 40 down to 36, for example. A commonality across all models is that you’re not cramming your previous work span into a shorter timeframe, like working 40 hours in four days; you are removing a portion of your total work time for the week. Most importantly, salaries remain the same.

Experts and workers alike are debating the idea, because the pandemic has forced us to take a long, hard look at the modern workplace, and associated themes like work-life balance, mental health and worker flexibility. Proponents argue that a reduced-hours working model can help address many current work negatives, making employees more productive, healthier and happier.

So, should companies really pay people the same salaries to work fewer hours? What’s in it for them, and what exactly is the argument for the shorter workweek?

The productivity boost

Evidence suggests that one of the biggest advantages of working fewer weekly hours is that it makes people better workers. Research shows people get more done when they work fewer hours, and less done when they work more hours. For example, a 2014 study from Stanford University suggested that productivity plummets after working 50 hours a week; other experts suggest 35 hours as the optimal work time before productivity begins to decline, while one school of thought says we should only work six hours per day.

John Trougakos, associate professor of organisational behavior at the University of Toronto, says that’s because a typical day during a standard workweek of 40 hours just isn’t set up for efficiency. “Your energy cannot be sustained for eight hours straight. You’re stretching people’s attention over a long period of time, which is hard for them to do,” he says. “Thus, they’re going to be less effective.” To compensate, many workers spend chunks of time in an eight-hour workday scrolling through social media, shopping online or sending texts. One 2015 study showed that workers can spend up to 2.5 hours a day cyberloafing on the job.

A recent experiment in Iceland showed removing a few hours from the workweek “does seem to really make a difference”, says Will Stronge (Credit: Getty Images)

A recent experiment in Iceland showed removing a few hours from the workweek “does seem to really make a difference”, says Will Stronge (Credit: Getty Images)

We don’t know exactly what the magic number of workweek hours for optimal productivity is. But proponents of a shorter workweek argue that employees on reduced hours will work more efficiently to fit necessary tasks into the available time, rather than putting in longer, potentially less useful, hours at their desks. “It changes the focus from hours worked to productivity – that is, from ‘busy work’ to the right work,” says Rachel Service, CEO of Melbourne-based workplace culture consulting and training firm Happiness Concierge.

One high-profile study in Iceland, conducted from 2015 to 2019, followed more than 2,500 government workers across diverse workplaces that went from 40-hour weeks to either 35 or 36-hour weeks with the same pay. The researchers found that the majority of offices saw productivity either remained the same, or even improved. For example, in the Reykjavík accountancy department, workers processed 6.5% more invoices once they started working fewer hours; at a police station, meanwhile, the shorter workweek didn’t negatively affect the number of investigative cases closed.

“When we talk to staff in a debrief, they say they have a greater awareness of the workload, and it’s a more heads-down atmosphere,” which makes people work more efficiently, says Will Stronge, director of Autonomy, a UK-based think tank that researches the future of work and analysed the data collected by Iceland’s Association for Sustainable Democracy, which worked with the Icelandic government bodies that conducted the trials. Stronge says that employees are more incentivised to get tasks done when they’re given the reward of a shorter workweek – that the “carrot” of a Friday off kept them going.

Generally, fewer hours also mean a more streamlined schedule in workplaces. “Things like excessive meetings and extended lunches get cut down,” says Trougakos. That’s what happened in the Icelandic trials; in some cases, managers said they replaced meetings completely with email, while others shortened meetings and only scheduled them before 1500. Time spent for coffee breaks was slashed, staff were encouraged to run personal errands outside working hours and shift times were adjusted to accommodate slow and busy periods.

It changes the focus from hours worked to productivity – that is, from ‘busy work’ to the right work – Rachel Service

“The key to achieving shorter hours was often flexibility in how tasks were completed, how hours of work and shifts were constructed, combined with interest and engagement in the process of shortening hours from the workplace,” the report says.

How it boosts health and wellbeing

The productivity boost derived from shorter working hours is about more than streamlining processes and incentivising employees with days off, however. A key factor, say experts, is that working fewer hours leads to happier, healthier, more engaged workforces.

We know that working long hours takes a toll on wellbeing. But shorter hours, that allow people to feel more rested, better able to juggle complex caring needs or even just spend less time distracted by personal tasks at work, come with a health and wellbeing boost as well as keeping workplace maladies like burnout, boreout and depression at bay.

“There is absolutely no doubt that when people have a good work-life balance and get enough sleep, time with their family and leisure time, they work much more productively and effectively,” says Jim Stanford, an economist and a director at the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute.

A 2021 study which followed Swedish workers for a decade, for example, showed that reduced working hours reduced stress, exhaustion and negative emotion. A 2017 study showed that cutting working hours by 25% improved sleep and lowered stress, while research from the 1990s showed that working only six hours a day improved workers’ family lives.

Shorter workweeks may not only give us the time to do the errands we can't usually squeeze in, but help us reserve the energy to do them, too (Credit: Getty Images)

Shorter workweeks may not only give us the time to do the errands we can’t usually squeeze in, but help us reserve the energy to do them, too (Credit: Getty Images)

This gels with findings from the Icelandic experiment, too. At offices participating in the trial, workers’ self-reported wellbeing and work-life balance levels either stayed the same or improved. Stress went down, and workers reported having more time and energy to devote to hobbies, exercise, errands and friends, while parents said they had more time to devote to childcare. The Icelandic report didn’t make an overt connection between happier workers and increased productivity, but a 2019 study showed that workers are 13% more productive when they’re happier.

Stronge says shorter workweeks also foster an overall appreciation of the workplace, which can help with staff management and retention. Studies have shown that more positive work cultures make workers more engaged; workers in less positive environments are more likely to make errors, show reduced productivity or display absenteeism.

That means that in addition to helping the workers, the mental health knock-on effects of a four-day workweek help the firm’s bottom line, too. “You’re not going to pay costs for employees missing workdays, or being late, or taking sick leave,” says Trougakos. In 2017, Swedish researchers found nurses who worked 35 hours a week instead of 40 took fewer sick days, which reduced employer costs. Plus, if burnt-out people quit – something that’s becoming more common – the company incurs costs to replace them, and loses the expertise of the person who leaves.

The future

Of course, there are multiple reasons why shorter working hours are not the silver bullet. It won’t work for every role in every industry, particularly in client-focused jobs, potentially deepening inequalities. Streamlining working practices may also require significant up-front organisation.

Yet Stronge says the Icelandic experiment helps demonstrate that removing a few hours from the workweek “does seem to really make a difference”. Right now, companies in Spain are rolling out trials that either shave a day or a few hours off the workweek (not all of them are keeping salaries the same, though), and US-based Kickstarter has said it’s going to try a four-day week in 2022.

The experts urge exercise caution and thoughtfulness when implementing these models of work, but they think now could be the time to try. “We’ve basically come to an inflection point as a society that allows us to do this. People’s minds are more open,” says Trougakos. “We’re already in upheaval and change.”




These Canadian industries are currently facing the biggest labour shortages

TORONTO — The economic effects from the COVID-19 pandemic are squeezing businesses struggling to find workers as ongoing labour shortages continue to stall certain sectors.

Businesses both big and small say they are struggling to find staff and employers have been offering more incentives to attract workers such as higher wages, bonuses, and flexible hours.

However, for those industries trying to recoup losses after months of lockdown, Jasmin Guenette of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says perks may not be an option.

“Only 40 per cent of small businesses are making normal sales at the moment. So increasing wage is not something that is possible for many businesses,” Guenette previously told CTV News.

New research published last week from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) reports that 64 per cent of Canadian businesses say labour shortages are limiting their growth.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 731,900 job vacancies in the second quarter of 2021. StatCan said these vacancies can be seen across all provinces, with the largest increases in Quebec, Ontario and B.C.

Overall, Deloitte Canada says that 30.3 per cent of Canadian businesses are reporting labour shortages.

Trevin Stratton, economic advisory leader and partner at Deloitte Canada, told the sectors that have been able to shift to a work-from-home model, such as finance, insurance and real estate, have seen “substantial job growth” throughout the pandemic.

“On the other hand, hard-hit sectors that rely on physical presence, like accommodation and food services, transportation and recreation and tourism, still have a way to go before being fully recovered from the pandemic,” Stratton said in an email on Tuesday.

Stratton explained that the relaxation of public health measures in recent months has allowed these sectors to increase their employment substantially, but further gains could be “limited by the unavailability of labour.”

While many industries have struggled to return to regular working capacity amid COVID-19, data shows that these sectors have the largest number of job vacancies in Canada:


As one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Deloitte Canada predicts that the labour shortages facing the hospitality and food service industry won’t be over anytime soon.

“We expect employment in accommodation and food services and information, culture and recreation to continue to experience substantial growth in 2022 but to remain below pre-pandemic levels for some time,” Stratton said.

According to data from Statistics Canada, the number of job vacancies in hospitality and food services increased by 11,600 from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021, reaching an all-time high of 89,100.

StatCan says this increase was “entirely” in the food services and drinking places subsector. The agency added that food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related support occupations had the second largest increase in vacancies of any occupation over the two years in Canada.

The general manager of Italian restaurant Romeo’s in Victoria, B.C. says there is less incentive for Canadians to go back to waiting tables full-time when they can collect pandemic benefits instead.

“They say they can only work so many hours because they know if they pass a threshold of hours, they can’t collect subsidies on the back end,” Christopher Mavrikos told CTV News in September.

However, the BDC report suggests the phase out of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and other programs like it won’t fix the labour problem.

While some sectors have lost thousands of jobs during the pandemic, BDC’s chief economist Pierre Cleroux says the pandemic didn’t create Canada’s labour shortage — it just made an existing problem worse. He said the key problem is demographics.

“Today, 16 per cent of Canadians are over 65. In the next five years, many Canadians are going to retire,” Cleroux said. “And not a lot of young people are entering the job market.”


While the pandemic has increased demand for health services, many nurses report having left the profession after the stress of COVID-19 made their jobs more difficult and less safe, creating a shortage of health-care workers in certain regions and even forcing rural areas to temporarily close hospital units.

According to Statistics Canada, health care and social assistance currently have the largest need for labour of any sector in the country.

StatCan says job vacancies in this sector increased by 40,800 from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021. The agency said the sector currently represents one in seven job vacancies in Canada.

Job vacancies for registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses had the largest increase of all health-care occupations since 2019, according to StatCan. The agency notes that nearly half of vacancies for this occupation have been open for 90 days or more.

While there aren’t yet firm numbers, there are reports that the pandemic has increased burnout among highly-trained nurses, causing them to leave the profession at an alarming rate. Others have chosen to retire early due to stress.

Health advocates say keeping the skilled nurses with better staffing and more mental health supports could help address the problem, as well as putting an end to wage cuts and caps in the profession with campaigns underway in Ontario and Alberta against efforts to limit wage increases in the public sector.


Statistics Canada reported a record number of job vacancies in the manufacturing sector last month.

The agency says there were 65,900 manufacturing job vacancies in the second quarter of 2021, the highest number of vacancies for the sector since 2015. The increase was spread across several subsectors, with the largest gains in food manufacturing, such as meatpacking, and wood product manufacturing, according to StatCan.

The Canadian Meat Council — which represents Canada’s federally-registered meat packers and processing plants — reported in September that there are more than 4,000 empty butcher stations at meat production facilities countrywide, working out to an average job vacancy rate of more than 10 per cent.

Canadian meat packers say the shortage is in part due to the rules governing how many temporary foreign workers meat processing employers can employ at any one time and are lobbying the federal government to increase the current cap of 10 to 20 per cent, depending on the facility, to 30 per cent.

The construction industry has also reported a record number of job vacancies, especially in masonry, painting and electrical work.

According to StatCan, vacancies in construction increased to 62,600 in the second quarter of 2021, the highest number since 2015. Carpenters, construction trade helpers and labourers also accounted for a large portion of the rise in job vacancies, the agency said.


Job vacancies in retail trade increased to 84,300 in the second quarter of 2021, according to StatCan, with the largest gains in food and beverage stores, building material supply dealers and garden equipment shops.

By occupation, the agency said retail salespersons, store shelf stockers, clerks and order filers were among the top 10 occupations with the largest increase in vacancies from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021.

With ‘help wanted’ signs in many storefronts across the country, Charles Kay, owner of Montreal furniture store Prunelle, says the responsibility falls to the employer.

“Some employers are getting a little bit burnt out because there just isn’t… enough hand to get the job done,” he told CTV News.


Trucking HR Canada, a national, non-profit organization working to address workforce issues in the trucking and logistics sector, reports that there was an average of 18,000 truck driver vacancies in the second quarter of 2021.

According to its latest report, the trucking industry had a vacancy rate of five per cent at the end of 2020. In comparison, the vacancy rate across all occupations in Canada was 2.7 per cent.

The organization says the impacts of COVID-19 and lack of foreign workers have contributed to the increase in job vacancies. As well, Trucking HR Canada has previously noted that these factors have contributed to and increase in older truckers retiring with not enough new drivers to replace them.

Trucking HR Canada says the trucker shortage will continue to put “pressure and stress on Canada’s economic recovery” if not quickly addressed.

“Trucking and logistics supports key economic sectors from retail/wholesale trade to construction, agriculture, forestry and mining, and more,” the organization wrote in its report. “One fact remains: the longer it takes to better address driver shortages – the longer it will take for full economic recovery.”

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV National News’ Vanessa Lee





Zorra Township’s 4-day work week experiment shows early signs of promise

Early results of a pilot project by Zorra Township found a four-day work week allowed it to serve the public 12.5 per cent longer at no additional cost to taxpayers. (Indypendenz/Shutterstock)

The four-day system used in Zorra is known to many as the compressed work week

Zorra Township says early results of its four-day work-week experiment suggest the new hours allow staff to spend more time serving the public at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The eight-month pilot program began in September and requires employees to work a 40-hour week, but over a period of four days, an arrangement known to many as a compressed work week.

The pilot is being watched closely by Western University researchers and, so far, early results suggest the experiment has already accomplished what it set out to do.

“It works out to a 12.5 per cent increase in the hours we’re open each year and there’s no [additional] cost to the taxpayers,” Zorra Township’s Chief Administrative Officer David McLeod told CBC Radio One’s Afternoon Drive on Thursday.

McLeod said the township still serves the public five days a week, even though many of its employees only work for four. Teams are split up in certain departments in order to cover all the days in the week between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

McLeod said since the pilot was implemented two months ago there’s been a lot of interest. He’s taken about a dozen calls from a number of municipalities and private businesses.

He also said the township’s jobs page saw a spike in traffic in the two weeks immediately following the announcement. Normally the page receives 35 to 40 unique visitors a month, but after the pilot was announced it received more than 700 visitors in two weeks.

McLeod said while buy-in from employees was relatively easy, the public had to be convinced that employees weren’t slacking off.

“At the outset we did hear that from the public. Our mayor did an excellent job to explain how that worked.”

McLeod said once the eight-month pilot runs its course a report will go to council, which will then decide whether to make the arrangement more permanent.

Zorra Township between Woodstock and London started a pilot project a few months ago switching to a four-day work week. Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre checks in with Don Macleod, the township’s chief administrative officer, about how it’s going. 6:33

While the compressed work week is not a new concep​​​​​​t, it has been given some renewed attention since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way people work, including more flexible hours and working from home.

Still, some organizations have actually given their employees a four-day work week, instead of making them work five days over the course of four.

Microsoft Japan implemented a 32-hour week, closing its offices each Friday, while paying its employees as if they worked a five-day week.

The company not only saw saw a 40 per cent boost in productivity from its employees, its resource consumption fell, with offices using 20 per cent less electricity and printing 60 per cent fewer pages of paper.

Colin Butler · CBC News



Has COVID-19 Killed The Four-Day Work Week?

A four-day work week is better for workers, business and society. Yet, COVID-19 has made it more elusive than ever. The companies that can buck this trend may just come out ahead as countries emerge from the pandemic.

The push for a four-day work week has been gaining momentum in the western world. A think tank released a study in June 2021 of Icelandic experiences of a shorter work week. It showed that workers were happier and more productive with a four-day work week, and costs did not increase for their companies.

A shorter work week seems to be better for everyone, but it is being stalled by COVID-19. Remote workers have been working more, not less, during the pandemic.

Why Working Less is Better for You, Your Organization, and Your Community

When Reykjavik’s municipal government and a trade union confederation reduced work hours from 40 to 35-36 for more than 2,500 staff, a study found that their workers “enjoyed greater well-being, improved work-life balance and a better cooperative spirit in the workplace — all while maintaining existing standards of performance and productivity.”

The Japanese government has suggested that shorter working hours also have a positive impact on society. People can spend more time with their family and friends, which builds stronger, more cohesive communities.

Yoshihide Suga recommended in late June 2021 that Japanese companies give their workers the option of a four-day work week to help Japanese people achieve a better work-life balance. The government is hoping that this will make it easier for companies to retain better workers. They also assume that people will spend more money during their time off, which will stimulate the stagnant economy, and spend more time with their families, which will help revive a declining birth rate and ease the high health care costs of an aging population.

Evidence of Remote Workers Working Harder During the Pandemic

The reality these days is that people are working more – sometimes a lot more – than they were before the pandemic.

The Guardian reported that a study by Wildgoose found that 44% of U.K. employees (assuming most are professional remote workers) were expected to work more. The Guardian added that another study found that people were logged into their company’s VPN network for longer stretches of time, increasing from eight or nine hours to 11 hours in the U.S., U.K., and Canada.

Another study by the Pew Research Centre showed that of the people who can work from home, more than twice as many are working more hours after the onset of the pandemic than those who say they are working fewer hours.

In an analysis of the first and last email communications sent in a day by more than 3 million people in 21,000 firms in cities with government-mandated lockdowns, the National Bureau of Economic Research found the workday had extended by 48.5 minutes on average. There was also an increase of 8.3% in the number of emails sent after business hours.

Working Harder, But Not More Productively

The pandemic has made people seemingly more efficient, as they can spend more time actually working, rather than commuting. But this means days are packed with meetings with clients, stakeholders, and colleagues from around the world. Work days are not only longer, but more intense. And, because communications technologies do not turn off, people find themselves working at all hours.

What’s more, remote workers are trying to manage this more demanding work day while also managing a busier home life. Those with small children are having to not only manage their own days, but their children’s home schooling as well. The lines between home and work are blurred.

In Spite of the Trend, Some Companies are Pushing for a Shorter Work Week

Some companies are still looking to capitalize on the opportunity to recruit better employees, improve employee health, and contribute to a better society.

Kickstarter is piloting a four-day workweek starting in 2022. The company’s CEO, Aziz Hasan, said in an article that: “This decision stems from [their] belief that everyone who works for Kickstarter should have the ability to help propel the company forward while also pursuing their own creative projects, spending time with loved ones, and engaging with communities and causes that are important to them.” He even links to a website that is petitioning for a four-day workweek.

Hasan acknowledges that he is not sure how the business will run with people working fewer hours, but he is willing to experiment. We should all watch closely to see if Kickstarter will succeed where most companies have failed.




4-day work week with fewer hours, same pay could become a reality in some workplaces post-COVID-19

Some experts and researchers suggest employers should consider a type of four-day work week that allows employees to work fewer hours and get paid their same weekly salary. (

Researchers suggest working fewer hours could boost productivity

It’s only been days since a small Nova Scotia municipality launched a four-day condensed work week pilot project, but according to the chief administrative officer, so far, so good.

The nine-month project, developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, allows the municipality’s core employees to work the same number of hours over a period of four days, known to many as a compressed work week.

“Our staff seem to be extra excited about the new work system,” said Barry Carroll, Chief Administrative Officer for the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. “We had some minor adjustments to make, obviously, but otherwise it’s been pretty seamless.”

Familiar concept gains new attention

While the compressed work week is not a new concep​​​​​​t, it has been given some renewed attention since COVID-19 changed the way people work. For many, that includes more flexible hours and working from home.

“What [the pandemic] has shown organizations is that people can work in different work situations,” said Erica Carleton, an assistant professor of organizational behaviour at the University of Saskatchewan.

“They’ll get their work done. You don’t need your boss sitting on top of you to finish your work.”

The idea of a four-day work week recently gained a bit more steam after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern mused about it in a Facebook live chat, saying that it certainly would help domestic tourism, as more flexible working arrangements could allow New Zealanders to travel more within their own country.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently mused that a four-day work week would boost domestic tourism. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

However, some experts and researchers suggest employers should consider another type of four-day work week, one that allows employees to work fewer hours and get paid their same weekly salary.

That structure, they said, would not only improve a work-life balance, but boost productivity among employees.

“There’s a theory called the happy, productive worker hypothesis,” said Carleton. “The happier people are, the more productive they are. Increased happiness, increased well-being, just having people less stressed, they’ll be better at doing their jobs.”

But paying workers the same amount for fewer hours could be a difficult and counterintuitive concept for employers to embrace. Carleton acknowledged that the benefits an employer would see from such a work structure, including a boost in employees’ health and well-being, wouldn’t be immediate.

Still, some companies have implemented this type of work structure and say they have recorded some positive results. Last year, Microsoft Japan went to a four-day work week, closing its offices every Friday in August, while paying their employees the same as if they had worked the full five days.

The company said that as a result, labour productivity rose by nearly 40 per cent compared to August 2018.

Last year, the U.K.-based University of Readings Henley Business School surveyed 505 business leaders and more than 2,000 employees across the country, including over 250 businesses that currently operate with a four-day working week.

While the researchers acknowledged the results were preliminary findings that were not peer reviewed, they did reveal some interesting trends.

Guysborough’s chief administrative officer, Barry Carroll, said that so far, his employees are praising the Nova Scotia municipality’s compressed four-day work week. (CBC)

The survey found that of those businesses that have already adopted a four-day working week, nearly two-thirds have reported improvements in staff productivity. And more than three quarters of staff working in that environment reported they were happier, less stressed and took fewer days off.

Fallacy of longer work weeks

“The main fallacy on longer work week is to assume a linear relationship between the amount of time worked and the productivity of an employee,” Thomas Roulet, a researcher on the project, told CBC News in an email.

“An employee can do more in four days than in five, if she/he is more focused, in better shape mentally and physically.”

He said it’s very likely that the COVID-19 crisis will accelerate the move to a shorter or more flexible work week, enabled by more people working remotely.

While it may be the worst-kept secret in offices, Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert and author of Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, said the reality is “that when people are in the office for 40 hours, they almost never actually put in 40 hours.”

Cutting back on non-work activities

“If you had the same amount of work you had to get done, but you had 36 hours to do it instead of 40, they would do less of the stuff that filled time that isn’t your job.”

She said that employers should be fixating less on the hours and more on what their employees are getting done.

“And then if somebody manages to do it in four days a week? Great.”

Could the four-day work week be coming to Canada? U.K. Labour politicians made it an election pledge, and a trial at Microsoft Japan showed success. We look at the pros and cons of a four-day week — and a three-day weekend. 14:44

But whether it be a compressed work week or a work week with fewer hours, experts agreed that both have potential drawbacks.

Decrease in productivity

Chris Higgins, professor emeritus at Western University’s Ivey Business School, said studies have shown that a compressed four-day work week, while popular with employees, leads to a decrease in productivity when it comes to blue-collar jobs.

“A lot of these jobs are physical labour jobs. And, you know, when you start working 10-hour shifts instead of eight-hour shifts … sometimes you’re physically drained.”

Also, longer shifts could negatively impact an employee’s time after work, leaving them less time to engage in extracurricular activities or spend time with their families, Carleton said.

One survey found that of those businesses that have already adopted a four-day working week, nearly two-thirds have reported improvements in staff productivity. (Indypendenz/Shutterstock)

As for the four-day work week with fewer hours, the Henley Business School survey found that staffing and scheduling could be a major issue, particularly if an employer needs something from an employee on a Friday and that employee doesn’t work that day.

Some employers had trouble implementing shorter work weeks. For example, London-based Wellcome Trust, the world’s second-biggest research donor, ended a four-day week for 800 of its head office staff, finding it was “too operationally complex to implement.”

In the U.S., Treehouse, a large tech HR firm that implemented a four-day week in 2016, reverted back to five days, saying it felt it had failed to keep up with competition, the research found.

Meanwhile, some business groups have warned such a structure could increase the cost of labour.

“The move from five to four days a week is not adapted to all occupations, tasks and jobs — it’s basically useful to non-routine, social and high-value tasks that will benefit from healthier, more balanced and more focused employees,” Roulet said.

Also, something could be lost when some of those ostensibly non-work activities are curtailed, including building social relationships among colleagues.

“One might argue that, you know, talking with your colleagues about social stuff is good for building trust,” Vanderkam said.

Meanwhile, Carrol, the CAO of Guysborough, said he is skeptical that a four-day work week with fewer hours is doable or will lead to a more productive workforce.

“I think you’d have to run a few trial projects in order to get that [proven]. For most businesses, it’s difficult to pay … the same salary for less hours. It’s a stretch to be able to get there.”

Mark Gollom · CBC News



Ontario Helping Newcomers Start Their Careers

Proposed changes would help address labour shortages by helping internationally-trained immigrants practise their profession or trade

TORONTO — The Ontario government intends to propose legislation that would, if passed, help address the provincewide labour shortage by making it easier for internationally-trained immigrants to start careers in their profession. The proposal announced today would, if passed, help remove many significant barriers internationally-trained immigrants face, such as the requirement for Canadian work experience, when attempting to get licenced in certain regulated professions and trades such as law, accounting, architecture, engineering, electrical and plumbing.

“Ontario is facing a generational labour shortage with hundreds of thousands of jobs going unfilled. However, all too often, newcomers in this province struggle to find jobs in their regulated profession for no other reason than bureaucracy and red tape,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “These are folks who often have the training, experience, and qualifications to work in booming industries where Ontario desperately needs help but are being denied a chance to contribute. If these proposed changes are passed, Ontario would become the first province in Canada to help level the playing field in certain regulated professions so that workers coming here have the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their loved ones, and build stronger communities for us all.”

To help address the labour shortage and help internationally-trained immigrants in Ontario build better lives for their themselves and their families, the Ontario government intends to propose changes this fall which would, if passed:

  • Eliminate Canadian work experience requirements for professional registration and licensing unless an exemption is granted based on a demonstrated public health and safety risk. These requirements may create situations where workers are unable to obtain Canadian work experience because they don’t have it. This is often cited as the number one barrier Canadian immigrants face in obtaining a job that matches their level of qualification.
  • Reduce burdensome duplication for official language proficiency testing, so people would not have to complete multiple tests for purposes of immigration and professional licencing.
  • Allow applicants to register faster in their regulated professions when there are emergencies (such as a pandemic) that create an urgent need for certain professions or trades.
  • Ensure the licensing process is completed in a timely manner to help internationally-trained immigrants start working in careers that match their skillset.

“Over the past several months, I had the pleasure of co-chairing numerous roundtables with Minister McNaughton, as we heard from immigrants, industry leaders, settlement groups and faith communities, to understand the barriers internationally-trained professionals often face. I am very pleased the government intends to propose several important amendments that would, if approved and passed, better the lives of new Canadians,” said Irwin Glasberg, the Fairness Commissioner of Ontario. “These proposed changes would help to improve registration practices, address unfair Canadian experience requirements and remove related barriers for internationally-trained professionals and tradespersons. I want to thank Minister McNaughton for his leadership on this important initiative. Our office looks forward to working with the government, professional regulators, and other parties to advance these initiatives and improve fair access to the regulated professions and compulsory trades.”

If passed, these proposed changes would build on work the province is already doing to help highly skilled internationally-trained immigrants to find work in their field of expertise. Through the Ontario Bridge Training Program, Ontario is investing $67 million over three years on programs and services that connect internationally-trained immigrants with in-demand jobs in their communities.

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, only one-quarter of internationally trained immigrants in Ontario were employed in the regulated professions for which they trained or studied.
  • This summer, roughly 300,000 jobs were going unfilled across the province, costing billions in lost productivity.
  • Currently, internationally-trained immigrants face multiple barriers to getting licensed in their field including unfair requirements for Canadian work experience, unnecessary, repetitive and costly language testing, and unreasonable processing times.
  • At present, licensing time in some regulated professions takes up to 18 months or more, while workers wait in limbo, wasting valuable time when they could be contributing to the economy.
  • The proposed changes, if passed, would apply to non-health regulated professions and compulsory trades such as professional engineers, architects, plumbers, electricians, accountants, hairstylists, teachers and early childhood educators. However, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development will work with the Ministry of Health to assess if these proposed changes can also be made for health professions in the future.


“We need to make it as easy as possible for newcomers to Ontario to find jobs, settle into their communities and build a life here. Streamlining the credentialing process for skilled immigrants is a great step in supporting that journey.”

– Tonie Chaltas
CEO, Achēv

“We are pleased that the Government of Ontario intends to propose meaningful reforms to the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act. If passed, these reforms will address Canadian experience requirements, remove barriers for internationally-trained professionals and allow immigrants and refugees to better express their dignity through work, for themselves and their families. We look forward to continue working with -the Government of Ontario to help immigrants and refugees.”

– Debbie Douglas
Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

“We applaud this bold, impactful, and meaningful initiative that will contribute to the Ontario economy and remove barriers that hinder newcomers’ abilities to maximize their talents and potential.”

– Elise Herzig
Executive Director, JIAS Toronto

“Newcomers to Ontario are an important part of our economy and represent a diversity of skilled trades and professional vocations essential to Ontario’s success. The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) appreciates the initiative of the Government of Ontario that will make it easier for newcomers to match their foreign qualifications and skills to available jobs in Ontario, allowing newcomers to enact their agency and contribute to our vibrant economy in a meaningful way. MAC also appreciates the extensive community consultations that the government engaged in to include diverse perspectives.”

– Sharaf Sharafeldin
Executive Director, Muslim Association of Canada

“The difficulties faced by immigrants when starting their careers is a well-known issue that has lasted way too long. Helping Newcomers and internationally trained immigrants jump start their careers to practice their profession is exactly what this legislation aims to do.”

– Sheref Sabawy
MPP for Mississauga – Erin Mills