Will the four-day workweek become the norm post-coronavirus?

If employee productivity increases by two per cent per year for the next decade, Canadians could enjoy a four-day workweek without giving up income or sacrificing their living standards, according to a new study by the Fraser Institute.

“In light of the COVID-19 lockdown, there’s been a lot of talk about a possible four-day workweek in Canada,” said Steven Globerman, a senior fellow at the institute and author of the study. “But to achieve a four-day workweek where we actually work fewer hours while at the same time maintaining our current living standards, we need to be more productive.”

Read: My Take: Making it work, four days a week

With two per cent productivity growth per year, employees would even enjoy an inflation-adjusted cumulative 1.5 per cent increase in income, noted the study. But how realistic is it to aim for a two per cent annual increase in labour productivity?

It would about double the productivity growth rate experienced in recent years. However, since labour productivity in Canada’s business sector increased at around two per cent a year from 1961 to 2012, the target isn’t unrealistic, said the study, noting the goal of returning to the country’s long-run productivity growth performance deserves a prominent place on the policy agendas of the federal and provincial governments.

“If governments pursue policies that encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, worker productivity will rise and Canadians will be able to enjoy more leisure time,” said Globerman.

Read: Flexible offices could contribute to local Canadian economies in next decade: study