Bill Gates predicts 3-day workweek

While more American companies mull the benefits of a four-day workweek, Bill Gates is imagining even less time spent in the office.

The Microsoft co-founder said AI could advance society to a place where humans "don't have to work so hard" on a  Nov. 21 episode of Trevor Noah's "What Now?" podcast. His comments were reported Nov. 22 by Business Insider

"If you eventually get a society where you only have to work three days a week, that's probably OK," Mr. Gates said. Machines could make all the "food and the stuff," he added. 

This fall, Microsoft unveiled new healthcare data and artificial intelligence tools that have since been adopted by health systems including Advocate Health, Duke Health and Northwestern Medicine. Surveyed users at Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health have reported positive impacts on their day-to-day schedule, such as the ability to see more patients and spend more time with them.

"I don't think AI's impact will be as dramatic as the Industrial Revolution, but it certainly will be as big as the introduction of the PC. Word processing applications didn't do away with office work, but they changed it forever," Mr. Gates said. "Employers and employees had to adapt, and they did."

Flexibility remains king in the post-COVID-19 era, as the novel four-day workweek affirms. An August survey from Bankrate found that 81% of the full-time workforce supports a four-day workweek, and 89% would sacrifice something else for it: working longer hours, spending more time in a physical office, changing industries or taking a pay cut. 

The jury is still out on how a shortened workweek would function logistically. Companies are unlikely to pay people for days they do not work, according to the consulting firm Korn Ferry. Leaders might also realize that they need a slimmer headcount, leading to layoffs and reassignments. Money saved on talent costs could be invested into the employees who are retained — furthering leadership and development initiatives, or boosting pay for elite performers — or might be used to offset the investment in AI. 

 "There needs to be a balance between dropping savings to the bottom line and sharing it with employees," said Ron Porter, a senior client partner in Korn Ferry's human resources center.


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