There is an interesting explanation about how our five day, forty hour work week standard almost wasn’t in the book Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic. It seems that in 1933, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would make thirty hours the official work week for Americans. Anything past that would have been overtime. It was voted down by a few votes in the House in favor of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Program. The thirty hour work week would have allowed for more job sharing, something that was sorely needed in the years following 1929’s Black Friday. The five day, forty hour work week, however, became the U.S. standard.
Of course, in many cases, that forty hour work week has gotten stretched to 45, 46 or more hours. When workers add their commute to and from work to their working hours, it begins to add up to a lot of time away from home and family.
Things are beginning to change, however, and many companies, local government work places, and even some schools are beginning to change to a four day work week, many tacking an extra two hours on to the remaining four days to make up the time.
What’s bringing about these changes? The economy, the rise in energy and fuel prices, and a concern for the environment can all be cited as reasons for the change to the four day work week.
The environmental advantages of this trend are many.
Fuel savings – When the city of Birmingham, Alabama went to a four day work week last summer, they estimated that employees would save “500,000 to one million dollars annually in fuel costs alone.” That’s a lot of money not spent on gasoline, and a lot of gasoline not being used.
Less emissions from cars on long commutes – Not driving to and from work one extra day a week can keep a lot of pollution out of the air.
Energy savings – The state of Utah has switched to a four day work week for it’s non-essential state employees for a trial period of one year. “By closing 1,000 state buildings an extra day per week, it hopes to save about $3 million in utility costs during the trial.” That’s a large monetary savings, but it also translates into saving energy itself.
There are other non-environmental benefits to the four day work week – an extra day off a week being the biggest, of course. And there are some problems with parents needing to adjust childcare and the fatigue that can come along with a 10 hour day that need to be addressed.
So what do you think? Would you be for the four day work week at your job? Do you see the environmental benefits as being a good enough reason to make the switch to the four day work week?
Image courtesy of flickr.
While there are certainly benefits to a 4 day work week, I have noticed that in the National Park Service, these schedules tend to be less efficient at times for a couple reasons. If it does not involve field work, then it makes employees less accessible to contact via phone and email– making communication slower and more challenging. It can also cause resentment among people who have to work 5 days a week inside the organization and outside of it. Lastly, it can decrease work efficiency, as people probably aren’t intended to work for 10 hours straight (people lose energy, get lazy on the ends, etc..) These negative being said, the environmental benefits are definitely good.
I think this is a great idea! In Chicago, where we have massive problems with traffic- think of how many fewer cars could be on the road if companies gave their employees staggered four day work weeks.
Of course, there is fatigue and loss of attention with a ten hour time span – but looking around any office at any given time, there’s bound to be one person or more not performing exactly as specified even on a regular flex time 40 hour week.
I would love to work for a company that offered this. It would make life so much easier – a full day that I can dedicate to doctor appointments, bank runs, post office pickups, etc. The fact that its also environmentally friendly would be icing on the cake!
i LOVE this idea. i really hope it catches on! for other people’s sake, that is– my schedule is very flexible and has allowed me to work a 4-day week for a few years now. environmental reasons aside, i think 4 days on, 3 days off strikes a perfect balance between your work life and the rest of your life, allowing for less stress and more… well, life. give it a try, if you can!
i think the four-day work week would be great, and even greater if it meant reduced work hours, too.
similar to the 1930s example you mention, robin, i’ve thought of 24- or 32-hour work weeks as a means of spreading the wealth, so to speak, and to increase everyone’s work-life balance.
to me, there is something not right about working five days of every week, only to spend one of the weekend days catching up on errands and chores at home, and then get one day off, maybe, to spend with family, relaxation, pleasure, etc.
only 1/7 days a week is given to enjoying life in the U.S.? if we went to a 4-day work week, we’d at least get to double that opportunity, almost getting an even split between the must-dos in life and the wanna-dos.
My employer utilizes a 9-80 work schedule. Theoretically, that is 4-9’s and 1-4 during week 1 followed by 4-9’s and one day off during week 2. The general reality is 9-10.5’s with every second Friday off (maybe). The day off is nice, but the system makes it difficult for parents who like to attend their kids’ after school activities while the sun is still shining.
Environmentally, I doubt that it really makes that big a difference in the desired direction. When I am off of work, I don’t make any efforts to reduce my carbon footprint by sitting still and praising myself for my green ways. I generally reduce the mileage capabilities of my pick-up by towing the boat to the lake to catch fish for the the frying pan. Or I might roll out the power tools to transform some trees into either cabinets or furniture…and of course, saw dust. Or I might decide to light up a couple of bags of charcoal and grill mass quantities of dead animals. At a minimum, I will cut the lawn. So you see, I am pretty sure that I negate any of the green benefits that my company may claim by “giving” me a day off every second week. Surely, greens don’t spend their days away from work celebrating their efforts to save the planet by sitting in the dark, fasting, immobile, and alone. That would truly be sad.
I’ve been on a flexible schedule working 4/5/9s for years, but last year I decided to go back to school. To accommodate this, my employer could only be so flexible at full time, so the most sensible thing became working 4 8 hour days a week at 32 hours. While taking a substantial cut in pay was tough the first year, I adjusted and now can’t imagine going back to a real schedule, even if it was something like 4 10 hour days or my former 9 hour days with a three day weekend every other week.
People talk about how they never have enough time, but many of us work too much out of choice because it gives us things we want rather than the time we want. The real question should be, what would you be willing to give up for more time to be with loved ones, doing the hobbies you love, or going back to school? I’ve found that it’s worth about $20k/year and and that’s a bargain! Life’s too short, make the most of every hour.
A lot of good comments. There would certainly be adjustments and even inconveniences for some if their work schedule were altered this dramatically.
This isn’t really an issue for me – I work from home and set my own hours, but I would love it if my husband could get this kind of arrangement.
Re: People talk about how they never have enough time, but many of us work too much out of choice because it gives us things we want rather than the time we want.
I do not work too much for the above reason. I work too much because my employer is inflexible. I would love to have the option to work less for less, or at least try the 9/80 thing, but first I would be shunned by my peers and management for being a “slacker”, then forced out and replaced with another, more “hard-working”, individual (seen it happen many times).