ChatGPT is an artificial-intelligence technology developed by OpenAI and rolled out in November 2020 that is designed to assist workers with productivity. It’s a tool that has sparked conversations about the possibility of a four-day workweek in the US, with some analysts speculating that it might be the technology to pave the way. Indeed, a six-month trial that involved 33 companies found that revenue largely was unchanged and in some cases increased through increased productivity of workers, who completed the same tasks in fewer workdays.
With the possibility of a shorter workweek, AI technologies like ChatGPT could be key to making it successful. According to Oxford economist Carl Benedikt Frey, “Any technology that increases productivity, ChatGPT included, makes a shorter workweek more feasible.” With the ongoing difficulties of global automation, experts in AI, economics and politics are all of the opinion that AI advances could be what finally boosts labor productivity growth, leading to a potential move to a four-day workweek.
US Representative Mark Takano agrees and is championing the idea. He recently introduced a bill to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours from 40, and make those clocking overtime beyond 32 hours eligible for it, with Takano proposing that AI technologies like ChatGPT could play a role in helping the US towards a four-day workweek. “I could see in certain industries or certain segments of the workforce,” Takano said, “that AI or technology such as ChatGPT could usher in circumstances in which shorter workweeks are the solution.”
A group of analysts for investment company Goldman Sachs even estimated that “generative AI” technologies could be used by at least half of global businesses in the decade to come, leading to a potential increase to global GDP by as much as 7% or $7 trillion.
Although a four-day workweek might be viable with the help of AI, it may not be an option everywhere. Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, suggests that it is likely to be an option in “knowledge-based” jobs, such as creating emails, documents and designs, where AI technology can help with the productivity of such tasks. On the other hand, workers might not want to take a reduction in their working hours, seeking the chance to increase their income rather than leisure time.
Additionally, the Brookings Institution’s Mark Muro warned that the time-saving provided by AI tools might actually lead to fewer workers and increased hours if used unwisely. As such, the decision to move to a four-day workweek should not be done lightly and needs to ensure providing economic returns and fairer working conditions for workers. With a lot of uncertainty about the effects of AI on the workforce, a four-day workweek could be a reality for some, but the decision to pursue it needs to be made carefully.