The four-day-work-week is an idea that’s gaining traction in progressive businesses and even a few government entities. While some organizations are offering 10-hour-work-days, others are actually trimming the standard 40 hour work week by up to 8 hours in an attempt to help their employees work smarter, not harder.
Research shows that the optimum number of hours a person should work per week is 35. Over an 8 week period, workers toiling 60 hours per week are actually less productive than those who wrap things up in 35. The longer hours also lead to more stress, fatigue and dissatisfaction.
Governments Have Tried It
The state of Utah recently discontinued a 4-day-work-week program, because it wasn’t realizing the kind of savings law makers had expected from reduced energy spending and other building related savings.
The problem was they received too many complaints from residents about the fact that government offices were closed on Fridays. In this instance, employees were working 10-hour-days, so the offices were staying open longer each of the four days.
The same program at the city level in Provo, UT is a tremendous success. Mayor John Curtis believes these programs may work better on a local level, explaining “the state needs hundreds of offices, while we only need one.”
His comments echo a pattern in 4-day-work-week success stories: they seem to be best suited to smaller organizations.
Techies Have Tried It
A more flexible schedule may work better for some types of businesses than others. Companies experimenting with the 4-day-work-week tend to be blue collar, and are often technology focused internet businesses.
Treehouse, an online school, has embraced the 4-day-32-hour-work-week, and founder and CEO Ryan Carson credits it with helping them achieve 120 percent yearly revenue growth. He cites the advantage he has in recruiting and retaining top candidates, claiming employees regularly choose Treehouse over hot employers like Facebook and Twitter.
As exciting as this is for IT majors, shorter hours for equivalent pay may be a harder sell for factories, day care centers and retail establishments. It’s easy enough to make the case that workers in these industries would perform better and make fewer mistakes if they had shorter work weeks. But payroll dollars are relatively scarce and workers are relatively abundant there.
It Could Be the Cure for Technological Innovation Unemployment
One of the greatest causes of unemployment today is the fact that so many jobs have been replaced or reduced by technology. Machines can pluck chickens, make cookies, and build other machines. This is both a great achievement and a tremendous problem for modern society.
But as metal replaces flesh on the factory floor, the cost of labor is increasing in many areas. Services that cannot be performed by machines are becoming more expensive. The average cost for a plumber is now $241, according to Home Advisor. A single housekeeping visit by a maid service will run you $183.
One day competent workers may be able to survive on 4 days of labor per week. And the void that leaves can be filled by the unemployed.
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