Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Four x Ten

I’ve already come out in favor of going to a four day work week to save energy. This Dave Bakke column today looks at the idea for State of Illinois employees.

The biggest drawback seems to be the potential loss of services from state offices that serve the public. Those offices might wind up being open only four days a week but open later/earlier on those four days. I think we could live with that. More and more transactions are already conducted over the phone or computer and that trend could be expanded to ensure the fewer working days don’t result in longer lines at state offices providing services directly to the public. So I’m not sure that is a real concern.

Having some experience with a four day work week, I will say there are some drawbacks. The most obvious is the longer day. My experience involved a very low stress job so the long days really didn’t bother me. However, it’s all some people can do to get through eight hour (or 7.5 for State employees) without going mad or passing out from exhaustion. Up that to 10 (9.375 or whatever for State workers) might result in lost productivity.

Another drawback concerns childcare. Single parents or even couples who both work the longer days might find it difficult to have their child in daycare for so long each day. The advantage here is that as this work schedule gets more popular, daycares will adjust and may wind up with four day work weeks of their own. Still, the transition might be a strain on the household.
I’m wondering, if the four day work week becomes popular, if we might not see the traditional weekend expanded and standardized. That is, Monday or Friday might become part of what we consider to be the weekend. Of course, my vote it for Fridays.
In the end, the greatest resistance to a four day week is going to come from employers (including the general public in the case of State workers) because there is an underlying impression that this is a concession to employees. Many employers now would treat an employee asking for the four day week as if they were trying to get away with something. I think the same traditional mentality exists for telecommuting. I also think we all need to get over that notion and embrace the benefits.


JeromeProphet said...

Encouraging a four day work week for employees doesn't demand shutting down offices.

I couldn't do what you're discussing here because my supervisory role would prohibit it, as someone must be there to watch the store so to speak, but we do have some of our staff on that schedule - just a few.

It's very demanding.


Anonymous said...

I once worked in an office where the day off during the work week changed each week. Working four days a week was an option and, if you took that option, you had a weekday off each week. You might have a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday - not just Fridays. That allowed for a full staff each weekday and still gave workers the option of a day off.

Initially you might think it wouldn't be good to have a day off in the middle of the week, but it actually worked out well. You got used to it and began to like having a day to sleep in and get stuff done when everyone else was at work.


nancy said...

I would think that in order to take maximum savings advantage of a four day work week, having all employees off on the same day would be more beneficial (customer service being the big obstacle, of course). Moreso, if the day off were Friday or Monday when (conceivably) offices could be almost completely shut down of energy-burning resources like lights, a/c, heat, copiers, etc.

Anonymous said...

We really couldn't run our business with only four days a week.

We have to compete against other companies who would stay open five days a week, and that would hurt us big time.

Plus, we have to remain open every day the stock market is open - well, not everyone, but I know my unit, and some other units are required to do so - it's a matter of providing clients important financial support with their life savings.

We'd get blow out of the water if we failed to do this.

It would also encourage our top management to move our operations to India - and then we'd all have very short work week indeed.

With the market the way it has been - I come home each day exhausted.

People are freaking out and it is totally intense right now in my unit - extreme non-stop stress.

So if we just said to our clients that we'd be open four days a week, our company would be history in short order because it is cut throat out there. And I know, because I deal with all sides of this including doing what I must do to assist other companies to steal our business away.

Perhaps some government offices could do this, but not every company could survive in this modern economy shutting down each week for three days a week.

Our company does offer flex time alternatives, but very few people take it. Those that do say it's great - including one person who used to get Wednesdays off. She loved getting Wednesdays off as it meant working only two days, then having a day off, then working two days, and having two days off.

I'd rather have three days off in a row.


Anonymous said...

FYI, Mayne state employees do work an 8 hour shift. Many are teamster union employees who work 8 hours but some don't get a luch as it is paid but do take 2 15 min breaks. I have been working a 40 hr work week for quite a long time. But then again I am a long time teamster with a good job. I will take that 4 day work week.