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The Four-Day Work Week: Is it a Good Idea?

This article was written by in Career and Work. 28 comments.


I’ve noticed a few public employers, like Howard County, Maryland, the Hobart, Indiana Police Department, the State of Oklahoma, and the Winston-Salem Housing Authority, are implementing or discussing the idea of moving to a four-day work week.

The most popular options seem to be replacing five eight-hour days with four ten-hour days and replacing ten eight-hour days with eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day.

By shutting down non-essential services for one day every week or one day every two weeks, employees can save money on transportation, taking into account the rising cost of gasoline. This seems to be the biggest driver of these discussions and changes. The organizations that implement these changes also stand to reduce energy costs.

There are a number of additional benefits as well. Less time commuting means less pollution. A variety of commutation hours, or more flexibility in business hours, could reduce congestion. Less driving could decrease the frequency of road repairs. And of course, less time in vehicles lowers the demand for gasoline and the country’s reliance on oil, foreign or otherwise.

More time away from the office allows us to spend more time with family. But if a work week consisting of 40 hours is still the standard regardless of the number of days, employees will be spending longer days in the office. That could cause some problems with child care, whether the employee leaves the house earlier, returns later, or both.

Speaking for myself, when I work four-day weeks, I seem less stressed and fatigued by the end of the week. That might increase my productivity. But when I do so, I’m usually working only eight or so hours a day (usually a bit more), not ten, and taking a “vacation day.”

So far, it doesn’t appear that employer are trying to pay their employees 20% less for working four days each week rather than five. Might employers look to reducing salaries, even if the total number of hours worked is the same?

What are your thoughts on a four-day work week?

Updated December 20, 2011 and originally published July 10, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Eden

I’m definitely in favor of that. Currently I work 4 days in the office and 1 day at home. So it’s not exactly a 4 day work week, but it makes my work weeks much more enjoyable. Of course, my job isn’t about logging hours, I have projects to finish and it is up to me to allocate hours in my week to get them done.

If you have a long commute, you are saving a good bit of time, even if it means logging 4 longer than normal days.

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avatar Tom

A lot of people will want it. I’ve worked it in the past and, from experience, can say that the 10 hour days, even with a 3 day weekend, will burn you out. Most of the time, that day off will be blown by catching up on rest from the past 4 days. A better option is the 9-80, which is eight 9 hour days + one 8 hour day and every other Friday or Monday off. I, personally, like five 8 hour days, I am not as tired when I get home and have an extra 2 hours to complete my household work.

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avatar Ron

I’d love to work a 4 day week, but as a district manager for a retail lumber and building materials company, I just can’t pull it off. It would be sweet heaven though…

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avatar Fred

People in my group at work typically work 10 hours a day (or more), so when Sr. Mgmt. came up with the bright idea of taking a day off every two weeks or half a day off every week, there were no complaints. If we’re putting in the time already, no sweat – just free time off and one lost day of productivity every two weeks. That said, not everyone takes advantage of the program.

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avatar Randy Peterman

I work from home every day of the week (sometimes 6 or 7 if I’m in a crunch), but the gas savings has been nice all along. I don’t believe employers will get employees to take a pay cut for the same amount of hours (and depending on the contracts some states or cities have, they’d be sued into oblivion). There’s no reason not to let non-public facing employees work from home or four tens or some other combination, the biggest benefit will be morale from regular long weekends.

Of course then there’s the three 12s plus a four hour stint approach, which is probably too long for most people and brains…

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avatar matty dread

10 hour days usually end up with employees taking 2 hour lunches….or chatting at 5 until go home time…..

I suppose with good management you could prevent that….

I have seen 10 hour days and “working from home” basically not work as expected. I’ve never worked a 10 hour day, and when I do work from home it is in brief periods of 3 or 4 hours where I have a project I can really get into for that time then I go into the office. You have to be very disciplined to work from home, and most people are not.

personally, i would take 20% less to work 4 days 8 hours a day and call it what it is….but then you get into the whole part time/full time designation for benefits and bonuses, etc.

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avatar Keith

My employer is experimenting with 4 10 hour work week for the summer to see if it’s beneficial. I’m thinking of making the switch to the 10 hour days because that one extra day lets me run errands that I normally can’t (ie: errands that require me to be at a place from 8-5 – normal work hours, which is impossible without taking time off to do them).

I think, though, that if people had an extra day off, they’d still end up driving all over doing errands. It might also lead to increased spending due to wanting to get out of the house and go out to eat or something.

I calculated how much I’d save from switching over to a 4 day work week:

22 miles, one way * 2 = 44 miles for one day.
44mi * 50 weeks/year (assume 2 weeks vacation, it’ll probably varry) = 2,200 mi/year
2,200mi/year divided by 35mpg (yes, I get that much) = 62.85 gallons saved.
62.85 gallons * $4/gallon = $251.40 in savings theoretically. In reality, it’ll probably be much less savings due to errands or going out, etc.

I suppose the only real benefit would be having that extra day to spend at home doing chores, with kids, etc (especially if I end up going back to school like I’m planning).

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avatar Transcendental Success

The time overhead associated with my work day is enormous, and I’m not that bad. On workdays from the moment I get up until about 6:30pm is devoted to work. That’s over 12 hours with 3 or 4 hours worth of overhead (so 25%+). Saving that overhead would be a great windfall once per week.

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avatar KC

I was discussing this with a friend of mine who teaches at a community college. Many of the students and teachers commute from long distances. He said their administration is moving towards a 4 day work week. I can’t imagine how miserable that would be. After 8 hours I’m spent – I just want to go home. If I had to tack on 2 more hours I’d go batty. I suppose it could work on some levels, but you’d better enjoy the heck out of your job. Most workers are going to need more breaks, especially i those last 2 hours.

Also this should be interesting with people trying to work around day care/school schedules. I don’t have children, but I could see some problems and added costs of covering for 2 hours extra day care at the end of the school day.

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avatar UH2L

We have summer hours which are four 9 hour days followed by a 4 hour day on Friday. I find that I used to work 9+ hours Monday through Friday anyway, so it’s like getting a free half day every week. (But then, I sometimes work closer to 5 hours most Fridays anyway.)

In the end, if you have a white collar job without quantifiable productivity per hour, it all balances out. People find ways to take breaks when they’re tired of working. But then some people work from home late at night or on weekends.

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avatar fitwallet

I work four 10-hour days and I absolutely love my schedule. I get a three-day weekend every week, giving me time to run errands and relax–not one or the other! When I come back to work after my three days off, I feel more refreshed. Granted, I work very close to my home, so getting to work at 7am isn’t as difficult for me as it might be for other folks.

I also find that I can get more done early in the morning. I can check email, voicemail, or whatever else I need to do without being interrupted, because everyone else is still getting up or commuting while I’m already at work.

Non-profits seem to be ahead of the curve with flex time. I think some non-profits realize that if the pay is low, employees are going to demand more flexibility, and they’re providing that. I certainly enjoy this benefit.

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avatar Aryn

Most of the people in my office also work here 4 days a week and from home on the 5th. Everyone seems to be equally productive on Fridays because we have projects and client needs to meet. I find that I actually work MORE when I work from home because I start earlier (no commute) and have fewer distractions. Of course, I do work at my desk in my home office, not on the couch in front of the TV, so that probably helps.

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avatar Adfecto

I worked the 9-80 alternate work schedule for about a year and a half. It was wonderful then because it allowed me to spend more time with my long distance fiancee. I had a 130-140 mile commute to see her, but every other weekend I could spend Thursday night-Monday morning with her (yep I got up Monday morning and drove back in time to work my 9 hour shift). It made it much more bearable to be so far away. Once we got married I switched to a straight 8 schedule. My wife got a job (conveniently right on my way to the office) that required a standard work arrangement so I adjusted my routine to match hers so we could car pool. It saved us tons of gas. It also let me sleep in an extra hour every morning so I could get a full 8 hours of rest. Now my wife is back in school and has an irregular schedule so I’ve considered going back to my long weekends if I can get accustom to loosing an hour of sleep.

I think the ultimate take away is that everyone has a unique situation and what really matters is FLEXIBILITY. Our lives change and require different types of work schedules to meet our needs. Employers that understand that make their employees lives much better and as a result better productivity.

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avatar Sebby

I would just love 4 day weeks.

Although my employer does offer some flexible time for some positions (such as 4 days, or work from home, …). It seems only to apply mostly for management and other positions where there are little dependancies.

Being a software engineer, the bigger problem with such an approach is when you are salaried and not paid by the hour. I already have to slave ~10 hours a day on average and am not compensated for this since I am paid “to get the job done”. However, the amount of work is not decided based on my capabilities but on what management wants to get done. Therefore a 4 day week would likely require a change in management mentality, or for me to work 12-14h/day… Yuck!

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avatar Kyle

I was JUST about to blog about this. I think it’s a good idea. It would save tons of oil and ease traffic congestion. Also, it would leave an extra day for drinking.

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avatar Jim

I’ve been working 4 days a week for a several years now and its been great. I found that the same amount of work was being completed in less time, nevermind the savings from travel etc. It also meant that I’m less stressed and get to spend a lot more time with the kids. Next trick is to get to 3 days a week!

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avatar Juan

I worked 4 tens for several months and couple of years ago and I got burnt out on it quick. After the 8th hour it becomes super boring fast, especially when you’ve been staring at an Excel spreadsheet all day.

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avatar Tim

i think it is a good idea so long as they only get paid 4 days rather than 5, because everywhere i look i see lazy employees as the rule, not the exception.

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avatar Kevin

I would take a 4 day workweek in a heartbeat. I’d love 3 day weekends. Heck, I’d work 3 day weeks…

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avatar kitty

I am a software engineer and my company (IBM) has allowed working 4 10-hour days or 3 9-hour and one 4-hour day in summer or working from home on any days for a few years now. Our schedule is pretty flexible too – nobody really cares when you come and go as long as you accomplish everything you are supposed to and more. At the end of the year you are evaluated on your accomplishments not on how much time you spent in the office. Or even if you surf internet in the office – most locations (not all) have offices not cubicles and at least in my location 80% of office doors are closed at all times. But during the evaluation time, you are compared to everyone else and ranked, so you still need to get the job done. We also have an unlimited number of sick days, but hardly anybody is ever sick. Because whether you are sick or not, you are still compared to others on what you accomplished… I think this is a whole lot better way of doing business than paying attention to the number of hours spent in the office.

I chose not to work 10 hour days because my brain doesn’t function as well when I am tired. Sure, when it is necessary because of the schedules I can and did work longer hours on all 5 days, even on weekends, but as a choice between 4 10 hour days and 5 8 hour days, I wouldn’t do it. So I wouldn’t like to have 4-day schedule mandatory. I also would like to get to the health club in the evening; and also to feed my cat. In terms of gas savings – working from home on some days works fine.

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avatar Anca

I like having every other Friday off to run errands when other businesses are actually open. But honesly, I just wish I could work less than 40 hours. I want to move to one of those Europeans countries where the laws says 35 hours max, and everyone gets a month of vacation, and the work pace is slower.

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avatar Name or Alias

For most people a 4 day work week is not 10 hour days but more like 12 hour days: 1 hour unpaid lunch plus the commute and side errands. The 5th day off will not save gas because that day will be used to catch up on tasks that could not be completed because the employee was tied up an extra 2 hours during the rest of the week. No more stopping by the grocery store on the way home from work, instead a special trip will be made on the 5th day off. As another bad side effect, those poor office workers will not be sitting for longer periods of time. Expect to see more people having problems with blood clots. At least with 8 hour work days, people have time to go to the GYM or go walking after work. By extending the work day 2 hours, most people just have enough time to eat, shower, and get ready for bed.

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avatar Sara at On Simplicity

Since I think six-hour work days are the most productive with the least amount of wasted time, I definitely can’t see working for 10 hours. I would imagine it could easily lead to a “work hard, party hard” mentality instead of a healthy work-life balance. But to each his own–I’m sure that there are lots of folks who might really put the extra day to good use.

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avatar fathersez

I like the term “work overhead”, made by commentator No: 8.

We spend quite some time each working day and, I for one, would love a 4 day week.

I still remember doing the 5 and half day week and how happy I was when we went 5 days.

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avatar Marci

I work 4 days by choice. Last Fall I convinced my employer that I could do the same job in 4 days as I did in 5, and he said fine – pick your day off. I took Mondays because here on the coast Fridays are a tourist traffic mess, and I enjoy being able to get things done on Monday without the Friday traffic tieups. Plus Sunday nights are so nice knowing I don’t have to go to work the next day :)

Mine’s 4 -8′s tho… my choice. Plus an hr from home checking phones on the day off… so 33 hrs/week. I LOVE IT! Extra time for my grandkids and my trips and my garden and other hobbies. I started it when I was remodeling my house and decided that I could get things done without having to pay someone else to do them while I was working…it saved me a lot of labor costs. Luckily, being very frugal, I can afford not to have to work that extra day. Employer is happy, and I’m happy as it’s still enough hours to get full health insurance.

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avatar Marci

PS – If I could convince the boss to keep paying my health insurance premiums on just 3 8′s, I’d like that even more :) But company policy is 30 hrs for health insurance.

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avatar Connie

I work 3-12 hour days per week as a fulltime employee. While it can cause burn out in some people, others adapt and love it. I happen to adore working 3 and having 4 off, I use minimal vacation and sick time along with an increased presence in my home. As the mother of teenagers this is a wonderful gift….how else would I spy on them?

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avatar Lltupi

I work in a hospital, they allow clinical staff to have flexible schedules of ten hours a day times four days a week, some nurses to work 12 hours a day but the rest has to work eight hours a day with set days off. We have excessive amounts of over time and therefore they do not want to give 12 hours to everyone because if people did not show up to work they could mandate only for more four hours. I would like a creative schedule that would give more personal time as less days of work and still ensure coverage in a 24 hour facility. Any one?

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