Our Chicago: Continuing work-from-home era and possible benefits of 4-day workweek

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, March 26, 2023
Our Chicago Part 1: Remote work, possible benefits of 4-day workweek
Just over three years ago, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and governors around the country issued stay-at-home orders.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Just over three years ago, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and governors around the country issued stay-at-home orders.

And, that's when many peoples homes became their workplaces. For some, that hasn't changed.

A recent report found that about 50% of workers in Chicago were back in the office.

"Right now we're really seeing that that 50% is kind of lumpy. Probably up to 50% on good days, Tuesday to Thursday. Monday might be more like 20%. Friday might only be 10% in terms of the number of people really coming into work, into their office," said John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

He said whether companies are requiring employees to come back to the office depends on the company culture.

"Employers who insist on that often lose those employees because there are others who will pick them up on just what they want especially if they're a talented, highly skilled worker that the company needs," Challenger said.

And Challenger thinks working from home will be one of the lasting legacies of the pandemic.

"I do think that's one of the changes that's permanent in the way we work. Many of us work, especially if we can, with your phone and your computer, you know you don't necessarily need to be in the office. We've equipped our homes. We've got technology. So, the world has changed forever. I don't think we're going back to, ever, anything but a hybrid environment. It makes people more productive. They don't have the commute times. It's good for everyone," Challenger said.

Even for those people who are not working from home, technology can make it more difficult to step away from our jobs, when the work day ends. So, what would it look like if instead of working more, we worked less?

WATCH: Our Chicago Part 2

Experts weighed in on why remote work is still popular and what a 4-day workweek could look like.

There's been talk recently of shifting to a four day workweek. Dr. Robert Bruno, a professor of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois, said it's a reality in a lot of places.

"Studies have been done across the globe, most recently in the U.K. where different firms experimented with a shorter work week. And at the end of the pilot studies, folks were very happy with it and decided to stick with it. And there are companies that do work on a more flexible, adjusted schedule, less than a five day week," Bruno said.

Bruno said many workers are putting in more than forty hours a week, and it's putting pressure on families.

"It's putting pressure on mental health, and I think workers want a balance between work that's meaningful and family life that's fulfilling," Bruno said.

What are the benefits for employers?

"Workers are very efficient. They're very productive. There's no loss of output, there's no loss of efficiency. Workers come to work happy, pleased to be there. They're not thinking about when they're going to leave. For workers, they can balance their life out. Work now fits well with their lifestyle, with their sense of identity. They're able to make various activities that their children are involved in. They're able to be more attentive when it has to do with school-related activities. There's less mental stress. And, because workers are really feeling comfortable in that workplace and they feel like they have some control over time in their life. They're actually getting more value out of the work, and they're putting more emphasis and effort into the work," Bruno said.