The Four-Day Workweek: Pros and Cons


When you know a three-day weekend is just around the corner, do you try hard to tie up loose ends during the week so you can enjoy it? I know I do. When you get back to work on a Tuesday, doesn’t the rest of the week seem to fly by? Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a four-day workweek every week? You can!

When faced with a short workweek I know I am more productive during business hours. Here are some other benefits:

  • People have more time to spend with their families.
  • Employees save money on commuting to and from work.
  • The business saves money on energy costs.
  • Studies show that employees with a four-day workweek are more productive and happier overall.

But there are drawbacks, too. Working 10 hours a day isn’t for everyone.

When thinking about creating a four-day workweek, people tend to think about how great it will be to have more time away from the office rather than how increasing their workday by two hours may affect them and their families. Less time in the day outside of work means less time for running errands on your workdays.

Another drawback is the fact that just because you only work four days a week, it doesn’t mean your customers don’t need you on your “off” day. Some companies can’t shut their doors for one day a week because of the nature of their business. If there are enough employees to stagger the 5th day off, this may work for you—some employees get Monday off and some Friday.

TGIT: Thank God It’s Thursday

The state of Utah instituted a four-day workweek in 2008 for most state employees, and researchers found that 79% of employees reported a positive experience with the four days a week/10 hours a day routine and 63% of the employees reported increased productivity. The same employees also reported lower levels of work-family conflict and higher levels of job satisfaction.

Utah also found that by implementing a four-day workweek their employees saved $6 million in gasoline costs and cut the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 12,000 metric tons a year.

Companies large and small across the country are looking for ways to save money. Pensions, as we’ve seen in the news, are a hot button topic. Many companies are not offering the same things to their employees that they used to—namely 401(k)s and health insurance. A four-day workweek, a plus to many, might just be the thing that keeps disgruntled workers happy and in their jobs. A shorter week could also be a big perk when hiring new employees. And a healthy work life balance is becoming more and more important to people.

Predicting the Future

Pretty soon those Generation X-ers (born from 1965–1978) everyone has been complaining about for decades are going to be at the age where they are the decision makers in business. And Generation Y (born from 1979–2000) are looking to do things differently than their parents’ generation. Big changes are in store—and one of those changes could possibly be an altered workweek.

A lot of people don’t even need to show up at the office anymore to do their work, and are already working an altered workweek — albeit virtually. Heck, working 40 hours might very well become passé over the next 10 years! We won’t know until we get there.

But before you implement a four-day workweek you need to do some homework. Find out what your goals are. Are they to keep employees happy? Save money on energy costs? Cut down on traveling expenses? Know what you want to achieve and institute a way to measure the results to see if it’s working or not.

You also want to talk to your employees. The people who will have the hardest time with a four-day workweek are parents who have children in daycare. Give them some warning and find out how they will deal with the schedule change.

Fortunately a four-day workweek isn’t a new idea—so there are lots of people out there that can give you their two cents. But summer is right around the corner — a great time to try out the four-day workweek…if you ask me!

 


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Melanie Brooks has written for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and websites from Maine to New Jersey. She currently works as an editor for Bangor Metro and Maine Ahead magazines.
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Discussion

  1. Vanessa on the 8th April

    Hi Melanie, Thanks for the article! I often have this discussion with friends and family that I think we NEED as a society to start thinking about how humans actually function. A four-day work week seems logical, as does the opportunity to work from home when you so desire. Most of the work being done in corporate environments today seems to be possible to do in the privacy of your home or in a public place rather than in an office thanks to the internet, Skype, remote logins, etc. I do however worry that by doing a four-day work week that people (as you mentioned above) will and do still require the 40 hours a week policy. That is just too much in my mind. I can’t imagine sitting down for 10 hours straight! The human body wasn’t even designed to sit for 8 hours and we are having huge health ramifications from not being able to move like we are intended to do. We are walking creatures. We need to be able to get up and burn some darn calories! Check out this article for what I mean on the health problems with sitting: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39523298/ns/health-mens_health On top of that, we can barely concentrate for more than 20 minutes before ever-shortening our attention span wanders elsewhere. There have been studies of how the human mind goes through ebbs and flows of productivity throughout the day and that on average a person can only churn out realistically FOUR hours of good solid work a day max. Period. Why tie us to a chair for 8? ….Or even 10 now?!

    I really hope that some day we can truly appreciate what it means to be a human– not locked up with artificial light, recycled air, drinking out of plastic and sitting on our chairs all day. We’ll appreciate that people need alone time, as well as social time. That some people work better in solitude or need that opportunity to have a clear head not filled with office politics in order to get good work done or get new ideas.

    I think in the near future with new technology that is emerging that facilitates long-distance meetings, online timesheets, potentially web cams that show you are actually working (as I’m sure most companies would be afraid people would just mess around if allowed to be at home — check our internet histories at work and you’ll see we can accomplish this in the office just as well :P), or geolocation services it will be easier to “trust” employees to have the autonomy to be remote workers.

    Work shouldn’t be our life. We are slaves to the wage. It’s sickening really. And while I obviously prescribe to the idea that we need to earn our way through life in order to achieve the things we want (a nice home, nice clothes, education, travel, etc.), it seems that the balance isn’t right. Am I alone in thinking this?

  2. Jameson on the 11th April

    Melanie, great topic. For many of us the Monday-Friday 40-hours workweek is obsolete and arbitrary, a relic of assembly line.

    Companies, such as Best Buy (corporate only, not the stores) have successfully transitioned to Result Orientated Work Environments (ROWE) where it is no longer about “face time” and figuring out how to look busy for 8 hours. Get the work done on time and we don’t care when you do it or where. Most ROWE styled companies have seen drastic increases in productivity, and employee satisfaction.

    The future might not be a 4-day work week but rather a fluid work week, each week being tailored to the tasks at hand. Monday may start off with a 5 mile run, followed by 4 hours at the library catching up on paperwork. Tuesday, may require a trip into the office for a couple a meetings. Wednesday, might be 9 hours your home office talking to clients. Thursday, 2 hours first thing in the morning-meet Dad for lunch- and 4 hours after dinner. Friday, no work! Saturday, 4 hours of quiet time working on the back deck (how I love WiFi). Sunday, 2 hours catching up on email and planning next week.

    I believe the two biggest challenges to this Brave New World are:
    1. Getting management to relax and realize that productivity and control don’t go hand in hand.
    2. The worker learning how to “blend” work-time and personal-time without blurring them together, diminishing the effectiveness of both.

  3. Terry on the 23rd August

    I loved 4 day work weeks, it helped balance work and life very well.

  4. Heyla on the 15th March

    Venessa, you’re not alone in this. I feel the same way. It’s about time we have a “Four Day Work Week Movement” (at least).

    Also, for anybody reading this great article, check out the Zeitgeist Movement movies (a series of 3) free online. Very eye opening.

  5. Mary on the 15th March

    Few people are realizing Americans are still living in slavery system right now.

    Most of us have to work 5 days a week (the majority of good lifetime) to overproduce materials for the rich minority. Women are enslaved on both sides, from the society and the home.

    Hope Americans can abolish the slavery system this century, and only work for 4 days a week, like some of the European countries.

  6. jeremy on the 3rd May

    we should really have 4 day work week!

  7. Saby on the 7th May

    My company has just sent out a vote to see how many employees would be open to 4 day work week. Sounded good to me at first BUT!! and there is always a but.

    Each day will be 10 hours long of course
    We wouldn’t be allowed to pick our day off
    If we take a PTO day it would have to be 10 hours not just 8
    When we have holidays off they are only giving us 8 hours in stead of 10 WTH!

    I was excited about this at first but for me it does not work so I vetoed this idea on my end

  8. Jason on the 12th June

    I don’t know if I’m commenting on a recent article, or one that is several years old, with the internet, you just never know! At any rate, I am here to tell you to heed my warning and DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT go with the 4 day work week! It’s not what you think it is. Having Friday off when you have just come off of 4 consecutive grueling 10 hour work days is NOT the same as simply having the day off. In other words, it’s not like having a Friday holiday or taking a vacation day on a Friday. There is just something about having Friday “off” when you have crammed 40 hours into 4 days that does not feel the same. Also, keep in mind that you are completely giving up your Monday-Thursday. You really burn the candle at both ends having to start each work day early, and end each work day late. You will end up using more and more of your accumulated leave time because you can’t always do the things you need to do on Friday. For instance, it is rare that doctors and dentists see patients on Fridays. So, you will have to take time away from work for that. And what happens when you need a whole day off? That will cost you not 8, but 10 of your vacation hours. If you have kids and they get sick, guess what that costs you? Yep, 10 hours sick leave. On top of that is the always fun to deal with holiday dilemma. What happens there? Well, your employer is only going to give you 8 hours holiday pay. Never 10. So, say you are off work on a Monday for a national holiday. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 10 hours per day. Uh-oh! That only comes out to 38 hours for the week! What do you do? That will be 2 vacation hours, please! And that is IF and only IF you haven’t used all your leave time up, which is VERY easy to do once your employer converts to the 4 day work week. There is ONE rare instance where you won’t get screwed on a holiday week, and that is on the off chance that a holiday falls on a Friday. Since there is no work on Fridays anyway, they will let you just work 8 hour days Monday-Thursday in that case. Which they pretty much have to, otherwise, everybody ends up with 8 hours overtime. My employer hates that word with a passion! My job has been on this dreadful system since May 2010, and let me tell you, it doesn’t get easier. You don’t get used to it. Ever. I look forward to the week of Thanksgiving, as we get Thanksgiving day and the Friday after off, so we only have to work 8 hours on that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. So, for a tiny little moment in time, we get a nice little blast from the past. A brief reunion with our old friend, the 8 hour work day. Just save yourself the stress and just stay with the 5 days, 8 hours per day tried and true system.

  9. CJ on the 13th August

    We just went to the 4 10s and its not that bad of a deal. Also, we do get federal holidays off and we are paid the 10 hours not 8. That is ridiculous if your companies are cheap skating you the 2 hours and only paying you 8…that just does not sound ethical at all, you should look into that.
    What I would really like is to be able to work whenever I wanted. As explained in earlier posts, people are more productive when they have freedom as opposed to being tied to a chair for 8 or 10 hours. In the field of work I am in, I can do this at home and I know I would get a lot more done because I would feel the satisfaction of also doing things that I want to do like run in the mornings at 6am and do laundry and clean and home modifications when I take a break, rather than driving an hour to work, getting up 2 hours before work starts to get ready and miss traffic, and then after 10 long hours (even 8) get stuck in rush hour which then takes me an hour and a half to get home. By the end of the day I am so tired, frustrated, and unable to focus on the things that need to get done at home, like school work, cleaning, and even cooking. Hello easy unhealthy processed foods.YUK!
    Working on my own, while still meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals set forth by the company, boss, whoever you work for, would definitely motivate me to get my work done so I can have even more time to do as I please like be happy, healthy, and motivated.

  10. Tired on the 4th October

    Work 9-80′s for 18 yrs, 5 x9, 4×9 + 8hr day every other weekend 3 days
    The last 3 yrs switched to 4 tens, and its to many hours in the work environment
    Not able to unwind, play with kids, do chores and its
    Bedtime and back at. Sure 3 day weekends grat but its about 2 days catching up on normal chores, sleep, all that guy said about vacation time is true, and make up time on holidays. Looking at going back to 8′s. To much stress not enough rest in between.

  11. Jeff on the 8th January

    Guess I’ve been running my own business for to long, ‘only’ 4 – 10′s sounds like a dream to good to be true. Try being the ‘big bad rich employer’, footing a payroll & being responsible for it all for several years, 50-70 hours/week is just the norm.

  12. Aleita on the 26th January

    Couldn’t agree more with Jeff. For the last 4 years I’ve run a small business and whilst I do enjoy it, 4 x 10hr shifts would be a walk in the park. Plus being hit with extra taxes at every turn. Thinking about signing up for a 4 day paycheck !

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