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.