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The Four-Day Work Week: Worth Pitching At Work?

Who wouldn’t want to work four days versus the standard five or even six days a week? Not many folks would forego the opportunity, given the chance.

Why, think of all the errands you could finally get to, and, importantly, the extra time you could spend with your loved ones!

And if you’re a single mom or dad, your day off would enhance your family’s “quality time”, giving you a three day weekend.

Even if your extra day off didn’t fall on a weekend, a mid-week break would be just the ticket to enhance life at home with your spouse and little ones.

But Is A Four Day Work Week Realistic?

The idea, as attractive as it sounds, begs the question: would a company, or government, be able to function while bringing employees in for four days a week?  Wouldn’t their productivity suffer?

Quite unexpectedly, one example demonstrated quite convincingly that workplaces can actually THRIVE when employees are provided with that extra day off.

Tell Me WHERE Four Day Work Weeks Worked!

Absolutely.   It’s understood that you may not have heard of the idea, and may wonder if it is viable in an environment where services need to be provided Monday through Friday.

We’ll look at a place where “customers”, or citizens, in the state of Utah found that their needs were met just fine, while the threat of economic instability was dealt with expeditiously.

Back in 2008, in the wake of the banking fallout, when many businesses were either closing shop or ditching jobs, the Utah federal government put forth an all-out effort to resolve the crisis.

The financial corner-cutting proved to be a stroke of genius.

With the banks in peril and employment rapidly turning to unemployment, nonprofit (religious and otherwise) food distribution sites attracted lengthy lines.

Additionally, house payments in home after home could not be met and mortgage defaults led to foreclosures.

So Utah Proved That The Four-Day Week Works?  It Helped The Recession?

Yes, without a doubt.

Although the recession had devastating effects on the economy, this Rocky Mountain bordered western state known for its Mormon population had the vision to try this novel cost-saving technique, and benefited.

The extra day off was scheduled for a Friday.  Not only was this idea a favorite of many workers who were ready, willing and able to work longer work days, if necessary, during the four days which would be left in the week, but many buildings normally open to the public (and in full operation) for five full days would now reap the benefits of one extra day’s cost savings.

Indeed, a deciding factor may have been that, for the government buildings participating, an entire day’s labor, utilities and building maintenance expenses were sure to result in sizeable savings.

So That Was It?  Weren’t There Protests?  Wasn’t There Outrage That Services Weren’t Being Provided?

The temporary inaccessibility to public services were valid concerns, and were not overlooked.  At first, it was presumed that the four-day work week would be a “trial” — a temporary fix – and that, while the premise was in place, the effects would be studied as they went along.

The results, however, were staggering in their successes.  The citizenry took to the idea, and there was little of the outcry which had been anticipated.

Well, then, I’ll bet that many in the workforce were unaffected. Perhaps only a hundred or so workers took part in this little experiment, right?

Nope.  That wasn’t the case.  In fact, the amount of people in the public workforce numbered 18,000 (out of a possible 25,000 total government workforce). Around 900 buildings in Utah closed up shop and many more were partially shut down.

Really?  OK, I presume that they had a year to get everything together…to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, right?

Not at all. That was too long to wait. The recession had hit Utah hard, and the people engineering the concept decided to launch it with only a month’s notice.

So there were NO problems?

Oh, problems were evident, as is the case with every new idea. Wrinkles had to be ironed out, and complaints fielded.  According to government officials, the complaints were taken seriously and the agencies began tweaking the solution here and there.  Apparently everyone’s needs were met, because soon the complaints dropped to a big fat zero.

Bottom line:  it can be accomplished.

What About The Workers Themselves?  Did They Have Anything To Say About the Four-Day Week?

As a matter of fact, they did.  And when a poll was taken, it was discovered that eight out of ten LIKED the idea.  Why?  It wasn’t only about the employees’ benefits on the home front—although the claim of reduced conflicts with the family was a huge plus.

There was a marked increase in productivity reported, as well.   Workers thought that, overall, they were able to get MORE done with the four-day work week.

These glowing reports included the unexpected bonanza of an increase in employee morale and a precipitous drop in absenteeism.

The workers had voted, and they gave the four-day work week two big thumbs up!

Really?  And so what happened to the idea of working longer hours during this period?  Did anything come of that?

Glad you asked. Yes it did!  There WERE longer hours during the days that the public buildings were opened (which was Monday through Thursday).  And, as mentioned, the employees found that they were more productive.

But another eye-opening result was that the public actually GREATLY APPRECIATED being able to contact their public officials during those before-and-after-hours segments of time. Remember: this extended the time when these official agents could be contacted.

So many people who got home late were overjoyed to be able to conduct business very early in the A.M. or late into the evening.

Wow. Anything else?

Yep.  Carbon footprints were reduced!  Because there were fewer commuters travelling during otherwise heavy commute times, carbon emissions plummeted by a whopping 14%. Take that, air pollution!

So you recommend this for everyone?

Well, judging by Utah’s record, it works. It just has to be tailored to the state’s – or a business’—specific needs and, as was seen, when issues arise, they must be addressed immediately.

In the fall of 2011, Utah’s state-wide enactment fell by the wayside due to internal political shuffling, but many cities elected to keep the four-day workweek, and continue to benefit from it.  Additionally, Virginia adopted some of its ideas.

Globally, other countries have found success with the four-day work week.
Now that you know the facts surrounding a model four-day work week, perhaps you can bring the concept to your own management team.  At the very least, the higher-ups will appreciate that you’ve brought up a cost-saving concept worth bandying about.  And if all goes well, they and you will realize the potential rewards of implementing this increasingly popular and quite healthy approach to a busy organization’s work week – even yours!

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