Four-Day Workweek: Pros and Cons

The concept of the four-day workweek is gaining traction globally, with two primary models emerging. One model proposes condensing the standard 40-hour workweek into four days, resulting in four ten-hour workdays. This approach has been adopted by Belgium, where employees can choose between a conventional five-day week or a shorter, more intense four-day week, with total work hours remaining unchanged. While only .8% of Belgian workers have adopted the four-day workweek, a survey by Acerta showed that 47.8% of 20-30 year-olds prefer it.

In contrast, the second model envisions completing 100% of the workload in just 80% of the time while maintaining full salary. This model has been tested in several countries. Iceland conducted a trial from 2015 to 2019 to assess the effectiveness of a shorter workweek with identical pay. Following Iceland’s lead, Spain is launching a similar trial this spring for small and medium-sized companies, where 30% of employees will work 10% less while retaining their original salary. France is also planning to test a 35-hour workweek over four days for public administration employees. Countries like New Zealand, Japan, and the United States are exploring shorter workweeks as well.

Advantages of a Four-Day Workweek

Various pilot projects have demonstrated positive effects of a four-day workweek. A British study published in 2023 found that employees experienced less stress and a lower risk of mental illnesses such as burnout. The study involved 61 companies with around 2,900 employees, most of whom reported decreased anxiety, fatigue, and sleep problems. The majority of these companies decided to maintain the four-day week, citing improved employee well-being as a primary reason.

Additionally, employees working four-day weeks called in sick less frequently. Occupational psychologist Hannah Schade from the Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors at the Technical University of Dortmund noted that reduced stress and adequate recovery time contributed to this decrease in sick days. This reduction in absenteeism is financially beneficial for companies, as it minimizes the impact of sick leave and mental health issues.

The four-day workweek also promotes greater equality. The British study found that men working four-day weeks were more involved in caregiving, such as looking after children or relatives. Furthermore, the four-day week could help address labor shortages by making jobs more attractive and increasing the number of applicants, particularly in fields where skilled workers are in high demand. This would allow families to better balance work and childcare responsibilities, enabling women to return to full-time work more easily.

Disadvantages of a Four-Day Workweek

However, the four-day workweek is not without its challenges. Economist Bernd Fitzenberger points out that compressing more work into fewer hours can increase stress. Belgium’s model, for example, requires employees to work 40 hours over four days, which can be intense. Alternatively, reducing working hours can lead to lower pay.

The business community remains skeptical about the four-day week due to difficulties in measuring productivity. Holger Schäfer from Cologne’s German Economic Institute (IW) notes that it is challenging to determine how a four-day week will impact productivity. Additionally, the four-day week could result in higher costs for companies if reduced hours are not offset by productivity gains.

Some industries may find the four-day workweek particularly challenging to implement, especially those requiring services to be provided at fixed times, such as nursing, security, or transportation. A rigid implementation across all industries could hurt competitiveness, according to Fitzenberger.

Despite these challenges, occupational psychologist Schade emphasizes the long-term benefits of fewer employees on sick leave, which could positively affect the economy. While change always entails risk and can trigger fears, a German survey from 2022 found that three-quarters of respondents would welcome a four-day week, particularly among employees younger than 40. The four-day workweek remains a popular and promising concept, albeit with some hurdles to overcome.

Post-Pandemic Peloton; Plans for Restructure

Peloton, the once-celebrated fitness company, recently announced that it is laying off about 15% of its employees – about 400 people. The company is also looking for a new CEO in its efforts to redefine its business model. Two years ago, Peloton hired Barry McCarthy, an experienced executive from both Spotify and Netflix, to replace co-founder, John Foley. However, McCarthy recently released a statement saying that he no longer saw a way to bring Peloton’s spending in line with its revenue.

Peloton is looking to expand its business model beyond selling stationary bikes, with McCarthy venturing into corporate wellness and revamping subscription models, in addition to phasing out free app memberships. The company also partnered with Lululemon and Hyatt hotels. However, despite these efforts, there was not a major uptick in subscriptions and the company’s stock dropped by over 90% since its peak during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The combination of consumers returning to gyms after the pandemic and a series of safety issues, such as a high-profile treadmill recall due to injuries and a death, have only compounded the challenge of reviving sales momentum.

Though Peloton has over $1 billion in debt, the company has expressed optimism over its latest restructuring efforts, which is aimed at slashing expenses by over $200 million by the end of the 2025 fiscal year. The company is focused on achieving sustainable growth and positive cash flow.

Peloton is an example of the evolving nature of tech-centric wellness ventures in a post-pandemic world. The coming months will be critical for Peloton as it aims to regain its footing in a wildly, rapidly evolving competitive market.

“Tipping Tips:” Adjusting to the New Norms of Tipping

In an ever-evolving economic landscape, the norms surrounding tipping are undergoing a significant transformation, challenging the traditional etiquette we’ve long adhered to. At the heart of this shift is an expanded expectation for gratuities, extending beyond the usual restaurants and taxis to include places like grocery stores, self-service kiosks, and even fast-food counters. This widespread change prompts a pivotal question: What are the modern rules of tipping?

Sylvia Allegretto, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, sheds light on the confusion surrounding tipping practices. Her research underscores tipping’s critical role in compensating workers, especially in sectors where wages fall short of living standards. Despite the confusion, understanding the rationale behind tipping is crucial for navigating these new expectations.

A recent Pew Research survey reveals a palpable shift, with 72% of nearly 12,000 respondents noting an increase in tipping requests. This trend is partly attributed to the pandemic’s impact, where tipping emerged as a means to support essential workers during unprecedented times. Furthermore, technological advancements, such as digital payment platforms like Square, have made tipping more accessible, inadvertently influencing the culture around it.

This cultural shift is also a workaround for businesses to enhance employee earnings without directly increasing wages, a strategy particularly relevant in the hospitality sector. According to Sean Jung, a professor at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, this approach allows for higher worker compensation while maintaining competitive pricing.

Understanding America’s unique tipping landscape requires acknowledging the two-tier wage system: the standard minimum wage and a subminimum wage for tipped employees. The disparity in these wages across states makes the act of tipping even more consequential. For instance, the significance of a tip can vary dramatically between a server in Washington state, where the minimum wage exceeds $16 an hour without a subminimum wage, and one in Tennessee, where the subminimum wage is a mere $2.13.

Given the complexity of wage variations, the Economic Policy Institute offers a wage tracker to help patrons make informed tipping decisions based on local wage standards. However, the ambiguity around who earns these wages can leave customers uncertain about tipping practices.

In light of these uncertainties, engaging with service providers can offer clarity. Asking direct questions about wage structures and tip distributions can ensure that gratuities reach their intended recipients effectively, especially in settings where tips are shared or deducted by payment processing systems.

The emergence of tipping requests in unexpected venues poses a dilemma for consumers. While the decision to tip remains personal, opting for a modest 10% gratuity can be a thoughtful gesture towards workers potentially earning below minimum wage.

Lastly, the phenomenon of “screen pressure” in digital payment scenarios, where preset tipping options can exceed 20%, illustrates the subtler nuances of modern tipping etiquette. In such instances, taking a moment to customize the tip amount can mitigate the impulse to conform to suggested gratuities, ensuring that the act of tipping remains a reflection of personal appreciation for service received.

As the landscape of tipping continues to evolve, navigating these changes with understanding and empathy becomes paramount, ensuring that our gestures of gratitude meaningfully support those who serve us in various capacities.

BSG Report Reveals the Importance of “Psychological Safety” for Employees

According to a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a notable goal for employers in 2024 is helping employees to feel safe in expressing their thoughts and taking risks. The BCG survey, Psychological Safety Levels the Playing Field for Employees, was conducted across 16 countries and involved 28,000 employees. The results revealed that employees who felt safe expressing their thoughts, also called, “psychological safety,” are 2.1 times more motivated, 2.7 times happier, and 3.3 times more empowered at work. Empathetic leadership, exemplified by respecting team members’ perspectives, emotions, and life situations, is as a key driver of psychological safety. While 12% of employees with low psychological safety express intentions to quit within a year, this number drops to only 3% when psychological safety is high.

Psychological safety is especially critical for diverse groups. When effectively established, it results in retention increases of over four times for women and BIPOC employees, five times for people with disabilities, and six times for LGBTQ+ employees, compared to their counterparts in less inclusive environments.

Nadjia Yousif, Chief Diversity Officer at BCG, emphasizes the pivotal role leaders play in fostering psychological safety: “Collective buy-in from the team is important, but leaders have an outsize impact when it comes to building psychological safety. They set the tone by being role models and signaling what behaviors will be rewarded and what won’t be tolerated. Psychological safety can flourish only if it’s driven from the top.”

The report also advises employers on how to cultivate psychological safety. Recommendations include setting aside time at the beginning of meetings for interaction and engagement and presenting opportunities for team members to reflect and discuss. Additionally, the report suggests critiquing ideas rather than people, as well as transparency and openness from leaders. Creating a space of psychological safety may take some work, but the benefits from doing so are
worthwhile.

Writers Guild Strike Reaches Tentative Deal

On June 4, the Writers Guild of America announced that they reached a tentative deal on a three-year contract with the Hollywood studios. 11,500 screenwriters joined the writers’ strike, which began on May 2, 2023, claiming a rise in television production that has led to deterioration of working conditions and stagnation in wages.

The growing popularity of streaming has also affected writers, as streaming shows have 8-12 episodes per season, whereas traditional television seasons feature over 20 episodes. Writers are also fighting for better residual pay, which has been affected by streaming, as well. Writers also voiced concerns over the future use of AI, and how that may threaten their jobs.

As the strike began, Seth Meyers said that the strike would not only affect the writers, but would extend to production support, including drivers, caterers, costume cleaners, and set carpenters. During the 2007 writers’ strike, which lasted 100 days, the LA economy lost an estimated $2.1 billion.

Service 2.0: Congress Passes New Retirement Regulations

US President Joe Biden is expected to sign on a new spending package, Secure 2.0. This package will both enable Americans to more easily save for retirement and lower the costs of withdrawing retirement savings.

Highlighted below are some of the new provisions of Secure 2.0, as per the breakdown of the Senate Finance Committee:

  1. A provision set to go into effect after December 31, 2024, and requires employers to set a minimum default rate of 3% (maximum 10%) for each employee. In addition, employers will be required to set an automatic yearly contribution of 1% up to a maximum contribution rate of at least 10% and no more than 15%. The provision requires many employers who initiate a new workplace retirement savings plan to enroll their employees in Secure 2.0.
  2. Another provision set to go into effect after December 31, 2023 allows employers to match a contribution to the employee’s retirement plan based on the employee’s qualified student loan payments. This will enable the employee to save for retirement while simultaneously paying down student debt.
  3. A third provision, set to go into effect after December 31, 2024, shortens the service time for part-time workers who work at least 500 hours a year to join a workplace retirement plan. Currently, the required service time is three years, and under Secure 2.0, it will be two years; this will ease part-time workers’ ability to save.

Female-secured Patents Could Boost Economy by $1 trillion

Small businesses and startup entrepreneurs are known to rely on funding from government agencies like the Small Business Administration; minority-owned businesses might turn to the Minority Business Development Agency. Kathi Vidal is pushing to have entrepreneurs consider applying for patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office alongside their application(s) for funding.

Vidal, who is currently serving as USPTO director, is an experienced intellectual property lawyer. A primary platform of her work in the USPTO, since her appointment by President Biden in April 2022, has been the diversification of those applying for and receiving patents. To date, only 13% of U.S. patents have been issued to women. When offered free legal guidance for the patent-application process, women-led filings increased by 41%. Vidal believes that the inclusion of women in the patenting system at equal rates as men could boost the U.S. economy by as much as $1 trillion.

According to Vidal, legal support is not the only barrier to female inclusion. The patenting system is inherently confusing and excluding. While the government views rejections as an opportunity for re-application, most applicants don’t understand. Vidal is introducing a cover letter to patent decisions, assigning an examiner who will be available for consultations and be the human face of an otherwise amorphous and overwhelming process.

Patents are a tangible way of supporting the economy and expanding business competition, particularly in growing fields like artificial intelligence and technologies. Similarly, Vidal explains that patents facilitate partnership and cooperation. Without patents, companies are resistant to sharing their ideas.

The Business of Bringing Back Businesses

Fashion Fair, the beloved cosmetics company, went bankrupt in 2018. But in June 2022, the firm, which Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage said “represented Black beauty, it represented sophistication, and it was the first makeup that I ever tried on in the mirror,” was resurrected. This is part of a current economic trend in which Black businesswomen opt to revive a legacy brand rather than start a new company from scratch. In some instances, Black entrepreneurs are launching companies based on known white-owned firms that unfairly used images of Black people as part of their branding and merchandising.

Like Fashion Fair, Madam (originally known as Madam C.J. Walker), the Black hair care brand, revamped both the external elements of their products, like packaging and advertising, as well as the actual production processes. Even with these changes, Fashion Fair and Madam still focus on the shared historic mission of each company: bringing wealth, access, and prestige to Black communities, particularly women.

McKinsey study found that Black-founded and Black-owned beauty brands comprised 2.5 percent of 2021 revenue in that industry; Black consumers spent 11.1 percent, the equivalent of $6.6 billion, on beauty products. While spurred mostly by need, as a way of ensuring the employment and safety of Black Americans in the dark era of Jim Crow laws, Black-owned businesses are a historic and iconic representation of pride. Historian Juliet E.K. Walker describes the time as the “Golden Age of Black Business,” when Black-owned businesses grew across the U.S.

The newest iterations of the company are also updated for today’s consumer interests. The Madam formula, for example, has been revised to substitute petroleum, which is derived from crude oil, from the products’ hair and scalp treatment recipes.

In some instances, Black entrepreneurs are redressing historic wrongs of white-owned companies that feature images of Black domestic workers in their logos and images. Rapper and entrepreneur Percy Miller, known as Master P, restarted his Uncle P’s line of pancake mixes and rice in response to this trend. He recalls how his grandmother used to favor brands featuring Black people, but as he grew he came to realize “that Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were models, and none of the proceeds from these brands went back to helping the community and their families; it was just pure mockery.” In an attempt to remedy these historical injustices, Miller sources rice for his products from Ghana; some profits are earmarked for programs serving low-income children and the elderly in New Orleans and St. Louis. A picture of Miller himself, in sunglasses, is affixed on Uncle P’s products.

Remote Workers Resign to a Renters Crisis

Pandemic restrictions are lifting and most bosses and companies are accepting that remote work is here to stay. And as employees continue to enjoy the benefits of working from home, they are also looking for homes to work in. The rental market is fierce these days, with prime interest in Florida and across the Northeast region of the U.S.

A review of recent real estate data released in June by RentCafe, a subdivision of Yardi real estate software, indicates that Miami-Dade County, with its 20+ miles of beaches, had the most competitive rental market during the first third of 2022. Orlando and other parts of Southwest Florida are also in the top-ten list of cities, as are Harrisburg, Pa., North and Central Jersey, Grand Rapids, Mich., Rochester, N.Y., and Milwaukee.

What these cities all have in common is their excellent school systems, tranquil lifestyles, and family-friendly communities. The demand for rental properties is driven by high housing prices that have not budged in years and climbing mortgage rates prompting buyers to delay their purchase and seek a rental lease. While some cities are accommodating the increased demand, like Miami-Dade County where additional units were released to the rental market, other cities are not as quick to meet the need: Harrisburg, PA did not add any new apartments in the last four-month period, causing most tenants to renew their leases instead of moving out.

Chattanooga: the newest Hub of Tech, VC talent

Chattanooga at night

Chattanooga, Tennessee is one of the first American cities to have installed fiber optic cables with gigabit speeds across the entire city. While this upgrade was completed a little over 10 years ago, Mayor Tim Kelly says the pandemic brought a surge of new residents all looking for comfortable remote working spaces and quality of life.

Kelly, himself a former businessman and startup founder, credited the 2010 EPB investment in fiber optics as a forward-thinking move by previous leaders. He notes that while Chattanooga doesn’t offer financial incentives for relocation like other places, it does cultivate a vibrant cultural life and family-friendly ethos.

As a result- and specifically since the pandemic- Chattanooga has seen a new balance of tech companies and those working for them; once concentrated in major coastal cities, firms are now widely dispersed in more rural areas across the country. The Brookings Institution found that tech jobs in San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles had slowed or disappeared, while regions like St. Louis, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and Nashville showed an unprecedented uptick.

Brickyard, for example, is a newly established venture fund based in Chattanooga. Cameron Doody, the co-founder, explains that as workers from traditional tech hubs swamped cities like Atlanta and Austin, residents of those cities moved to places like Chattanooga for quiet, comfort, and quality of life. Brickyard invests in international tech companies. The founders then come to headquarters in Chattanooga to rigorously expand their product and enjoy the benefits of amenities like a sauna, a gym, and a steam room.