the four-day workweek
August 6, 2009 8:55 AM   Subscribe

The Environmental and Economic Pluses of the 4-Day Workweek: "Forget everybody working for the weekend. In Utah all government employees have shifted to a four-day workweek, and the state is calling it a win-win-win for its budget, workers and clean air. Utah has saved $1.8 million in electrical bills in the last year, the air has been spared an estimated 6,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, and workers are thrilled. Eighty-two percent of them say they prefer the new arrangement, which still enforces the 40-hour week by requiring 10 or more hours a day Monday - [Thursday]. Is it time to ask your boss if you can take off Friday .... forever?" (via)
posted by kliuless (32 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Oh god yes.
posted by notsnot at 8:58 AM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

My workplace already allows this as an option. And it makes sense 15 ways from Sunday, especially with my long commute. The problem is the 10 hour day. It gets me home just in time for children bedtimes, which is sad. :(
posted by DU at 9:01 AM on August 6, 2009

About 15 years ago, I worked "Four Tens" for a while. It was the best work schedule ever. 7am to 6pm M-Th. It was hard to get the hang of for the first couple of weeks, but once I was used to it... Wow. The work day itself flowed better, because at 3:30ish pm, when typically I'd be looking around wondering what to start next, I could actually pick a project that required some time and dive into it, not seeing that end-of-day being only 90 minutes away but a full 2.5 hours. We were easily more productive in that studio than in other places I've worked.

The weekends were also SO much easier. One day to "recover from the week", one day to "get shit done" and then STILL one more day to have for my own use? How much better could that be?

I'd go back to work on Four Tens again in a heartbeat, if I could find an employer which would let me do it.
posted by hippybear at 9:06 AM on August 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm on a four day workweek now. My commute is horrific, and I'm sooo glad not to have to sit in traffic for that one day. Plus I can get a shitload of things done on a weekday that I can't on a weekend when my husband is home/places are closed.

I took Mondays off instead of Fridays because it's easier to get up and trick yourself into thinking you have to go to work. Then I can be productive instead of laying in bed all Friday.
posted by desjardins at 9:21 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

What with one thing and another, I could actually take Wed off if I wanted to. Which would maximize the number of weekends I have at the expense of making me get up at 4:30.
posted by DU at 9:24 AM on August 6, 2009

From the article:

There's another way to realize those kind of savings: Asking workers to telecommute. As I've written before, the benefits of telecommuting are pretty diverse. From the employer side, it can save office space, utilities and overhead for employee services. From the employee side, it allows parents to spend more time with their family and cut down on increasingly expensive travel given the rising price of gas and public transportation. And of course, fewer cars on the road means less traffic, which means quicker travels (and less gas) for other Friday commuters.

In my experience, workers are all too willing to telecommute. The big hurdle is finding a job that will let you telecommute. Middle managers tend to get nervous when there's no one around for them to hover over.

This is of course, based on my experience having "helicopter bosses". I'm sure there are perfectly nice middle managers out there who encourage telecommuting.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:28 AM on August 6, 2009

This changes nothing. My weekly "flat tire" will happen on Thursday mornings, instead.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:29 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I work 10 hour days anyway, so I can get behind this, but who in Utah answers the phone/gets things done of Fridays? It looks like if you need state govt. in Utah on a Friday, you're SOL. So to some extent, the savings is coming with a concurrent drop in service levels to residents.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:29 AM on August 6, 2009

i've been on a 4 day, 10 hour schedule this summer - it's tiring and it's harder to get anything done outside of work - i like having friday off, but i'm not sure it's really worth it

in any case, i'll be back to a godawful 6 day a week schedule soon enough ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:30 AM on August 6, 2009

I'm not sure I could handle the ten-hour workdays, but if I did go for something like this, I'd push hard to have every Wednesday off, because how great would it be to never work more than two days in a row?
posted by Kat Allison at 9:37 AM on August 6, 2009

but who in Utah answers the phone/gets things done of Fridays?

The same folks who get it done on Sat. and Sun. The funny thing about this is that it's not really saving the people's money. When you consider the larger economy, it's just shifting the money around. It is, however, saving people's sanity, which, in the end, saves people money.
posted by eclectist at 9:38 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Devils Rancher: The easy solution would be to have half the people working M-Th, half T-F. Hell, I'll bet a lot of people would be willing to give up 1 or more weekend days to have 3 days in a row off work, so you could even have a small contingent working W-Sat and Th-Sun. Organized correctly this could actually mean a drastic increase in service levels.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:39 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I worked four tens in the past. I liked it a lot. Now I telecommute, and that's good, too. Either one is better than a regular commute to a 9-to-5. If there's an issue with the service provision, you just don't give everyone the same day off. There are still savings for the employer in terms of office space, furniture and equipment (you only need provide enough for 4/5ths of your workforce at any one time).

I did laugh at the article in the second link, though.

For most of us life assumes a different rhythm on the weekend; we sleep in, cut the grass, wash the car... And of course we exercise and play games...Most are distinguished from nineteenth-century recreations such as croquet and golf by their relative arduousness and even riskiness.

I'm pretty sure that croquet and golf are not what your average Joe was doing with his spare time in the nineteenth century.
posted by Jakey at 9:46 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Kat: When I worked in sales for a large computer company 10 years ago (it rhymes with "Hell"), we often had split weekends (on top of a 5 day work week at 10+ hour days). There were a bunch of different schedules; everyone had at least 1 weekend day off, but only the top sales teams had 2 days in a row off or both weekend days off. At first it seemed kinda cool -- I work M-W, then have Thursday off, then F-Sat, with Sunday off; I get these nice breaks in between to help me relax! It's like I never work a full week! Pretty quickly, though, you realize how much it fucking sucks. You never get a real weekend. Those days in between get eaten up; you're just barely getting into unwinding, then you realize, "Oh, I have to get ready for work tomorrow." Instead of feeling like you never have a full week of work, it feels like you never stop working. After a year of that, I was seriously stressed and depressed. My second year was somewhat better -- I moved to a different dept. that was M-F.

However, on a 4 day week, it might be better -- 2 days work, day off, 2 days work, 2 days off. But, I think I'd prefer to get the long weekend -- it'd be like a mini-vacation every week.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:47 AM on August 6, 2009

The funny thing about this is that it's not really saving the people's money. When you consider the larger economy, it's just shifting the money around.

How do you figure, eclectist?

In a 5 day week, I drive to work 5 times and drive home 5 times. With a 4 day week, I would do each only 4 times.

That's less gasoline I must purchase, fewer tires replaced, less motor oil. Less temptation to stop at Burger King. Its also slowing the rate at which I am contributing CO2 to the atmosphere, which we all will have to pay for eventually.

I think this is REAL savings.

posted by General Tonic at 9:48 AM on August 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

So, under the new plan I'd work 12.25 hours/day for four days instead of 10 hours a day for five?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:51 AM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been working 4x10 hours since 1999. It's awesome. We just got approved for telework, so now I go in the office M/T/W, telework on Thursday and am off every Friday. Life is grand.
posted by fixedgear at 9:51 AM on August 6, 2009

The 4-day week was the best schedule I ever had. Unlike a lot of people, though, I prefered having my third day come on wednesday. Two days of work, a day to take care of personal shit, two days of work, two days of chill.

Rinse, repeat.
posted by absalom at 9:56 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The money goes to the 'weekend economy' : servers at restaurants, entertainment venues and theaters, etc. Even if everybody 'does nothing' on Fri. you'd still need to pay more to essential services (hospitals, police, etc), which often get differential pay for working when everyone else is 'off'.

I think this is REAL savings.

As do I, but the point I'm trying to make is that it's not going to be that much of an economic gain.
posted by eclectist at 9:58 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

At my last job, they gave us the option of working 4 10s. I loved it. Every other week, I got 3 days off in a row (we covered weekends, too), and could go camping. It lowered my car insurance. It did pretty much kill doing things on workday evenings, but that doesn't really bother me.

I was so much more rested at the start of the work week. The extra 2 hours a day was nothing (I knew from a previous that job I can't work 12 hour shifts). The tiredness and stress levels generally were lowered.

I'd go back to this in a heartbeat.
posted by QIbHom at 10:01 AM on August 6, 2009

When I worked at AT&T (both times.) I telecommuted. I slowly went crazy. It turns out the actual amount of work that I had to do in a day averaged about 3 hours worth. The rest was me, hanging around waiting for the phone to ring.

I had lots of time on my hands and nearly no face-to-face contact with anyone during the week.

Of course I watched lots of daytime television and worked out a lot, so it wasn't all bad.

When I was a school teacher, we had a block-schedule 4-day school week. The 2-hour class time was good in that you could really do some neat things with projects, movies and lessons. The bad part was that after about an hour, their minds, they did wander. We had Fridays for remediation (and extra $$$ for the teachers!)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:09 AM on August 6, 2009

I currently have a 9/80 schedule which is something of a compromise between the 5-8 and 4-10. I get every other Friday off and work 9 hr days Monday-Thursday. The Friday I do work is an 8 hour day.

I've considered the 4-10 option and tried a few weeks of it for an extra day off once, but the days definitely seemed long. One of the best things I have found about 3-day weekends is you can fly places cheaper on Thursday night.

I'd certainly be willing to go for a 4-10 option, but I very much hope I don't have to give up the 9/80 anytime soon.
posted by Feantari at 10:25 AM on August 6, 2009

So, under the new plan I'd work 12.25 hours/day for four days instead of 10 hours a day for five?

Yeah, this is pretty awesome for people who have 10 hour days because it plays well in Workplace Theater. But it probably will tend to pile up on people who have long workdays because they have too much work to accomplish in a 40 hour week.
posted by weston at 10:49 AM on August 6, 2009

We do the 9/80 at work during the summer, and I could do this all year long (if it were allowed). 4/10? That'd seriously cramp evening activities and/or sleep.
posted by canine epigram at 11:00 AM on August 6, 2009

This is great for those without kids, but telecommuting is much better for those with; being able to take the kid to school, do some work, then pick them up after and not have to have long drives in between would be awesome for both of us. I miss my little guy as it is, he spends nearly 10 hrs a day in daycare already. And my commute is short by most standards.

My company only reluctantly let us move to laptops because we were working such long hours during busy season, so we could work at home *as well as* at work; the idea that we could actually do all of our work at home 3 days out of 5 still isn't something they're comfortable with. Lame lame lame.
posted by emjaybee at 11:45 AM on August 6, 2009

I have a full-time job that's 4x10 and a part-time weekend job (roughly 9 hours Saturdays and 4ish most Sundays), so the 4x10 gives me a full day off every Friday that I'm very thankful for. It's actually better than having a Saturday or Sunday off. Traffic and stores are far less congested, I very rarely have to take time off work for a doctor's appointment, and I don't get burned out quite as easily. Frankly, I wouldn't change a thing about it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:13 PM on August 6, 2009

Both gardening companies I worked for did 4x10. It's a lot nicer than being at work for five days, but in the winter when you arrive at work just as the sun rises and leave just after it sets, it feels like you should go home immediately and go to bed, especially after being out in the cold all day.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:24 PM on August 6, 2009

This will leave workers more free time to change California's laws. Sounds like a win for Utah.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:32 PM on August 6, 2009

I've been working a 9/80 schedule now for the past few years, and have found it to have its ups and downs.

The three days weekends every other week are nice, but you'd be surprised how short a two day weekend feels as a result (and, correspondingly, how long a five day work week feels compared to a four day work week). Additonally, the nine hour work days can be a bit of a drag if I'm not especially busy; on the flip side, if I am especially busy and end up working late even an hour or two, the evening vanishes before I know it. Finally, the off Fridays are very attractive days to come in and get some extra work done - voluntarily or involuntarily.

In other words, sometimes I love the non-traditional schedule, and other times, I absolutely loathe it. My general feeling is that I wouldn't be able to stomach a 4/10 unless I could absolutely guarantee I wouldn't work more than 10 hours a day and wouldn't come in on the weekend. I suppose such a guarantee would be workable if I were employed in the public sector. But the private sector? Probably not.

And now, I need to get back to my ~50 hour four day week. Hopefully, I can get enough done today to where I won't have to come in tomorrow.
posted by jal0021 at 1:42 PM on August 6, 2009

My husband's office went to this for about four months this year. It was what they gave the employees instead of bonuses. My husband thought he would hate it, but he grew to love it, and so naturally, they stopped that program and now everyone is back to 5 days. They say they hoped that productivity would stay equal to five days with only 4 days and it did not.

I think we all need to go to the four day week.
posted by threeturtles at 1:58 PM on August 6, 2009

No we don't. It works if you have activities that can break up the day. I find the 10 hour day goes by fast when I'm busy with running off to meetings, or doing tasks like writing memos or answering emails. I can't concentrate on one item for 10 hours at a time, though, so when I have those kind of long-term projects I have to find ways of mixing things around or working on different areas so I don't lose my focus.

If you're on a road crew breaking asphalt, 8 hours is plenty, especially in the summer. I once had a job that used the 10 hour day that was literally drawing lines on a screen. After ten hours you just want to bug your eyes out. I also find that many Thursdays, rather than taking lunch I take a nap in my car because I just can't function well afterwards, not without falling asleep at my desk (which would be much worse). The other thing is that Fridays can often be as busy as the weekend for certain things, if you have too many people with Friday off (as is the case where I am). It can be difficult to schedule a doctor's appointment or get your car fixed on a Friday since other people have the same idea you do, and often the doctor or the dentist is closed on Friday anyway since they want a long weekend. They should switch some employers over to 4/10 Tuesday-Friday, which would alleviate this problem.
posted by calwatch at 8:56 PM on August 6, 2009

I work 4 x 7.5 (so 80% of fulltime) and it's great. I offered to do 4 x 10 but was told that they prefer people not to do it, because most people can't actually produce 10 hours of proper work with just a break for lunch.

Honestly, I'm getting the same amount of work done that I used to when I was fulltime. I spend less time faffing around, and less time waiting for people to send me stuff ("Can you get that to me tomorrow? I'm not in on Friday so this has to be done by Thursday"). In theory, I'm getting ripped off: less money for the same work. But damn, Friday mornings are fantastic.
posted by harriet vane at 11:53 PM on August 6, 2009

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