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.
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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 October 16, 2015 and originally published July 10, 2008.