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Rethink the Work Week

The "4-10" Schedule

In 2008, the state of Utah launched a four-year experiment: shifting to a four-day (but still 40-hour) work week for state workers. By closing non-emergency services on Fridays and extending the workday to 10 hours the rest of the week, the idea was to save money on utilities and reduce the environmental footprint of local government.

stack of filesStudies show that the move to a "4-10" schedule had an immediate effect in cutting heating and gasoline costs, and has also led to energy savings due to reduced commuting (although other projected savings didn't materialize). But the benefits to employees and society were immediate. With Fridays off, state workers had more time to devote to family, friends, and their communities. Reports indicated a rise in volunteer activity, including tutoring and participation in community gardening.

Overall, researchers found that 82 percent of the affected Utah employees preferred the new routine, and 63 percent reported increased productivity. Employees also reported higher job satisfaction and lower levels of work-family conflict. Learn about additional benefits of the 4-10 schedule here.

At least a half-dozen other states, including Texas and Oregon, have looked into the four-day option, although none has taken definitive action. Encourage your government and other local workplaces to make the switch! Check out Inc. magazine's tips on "How to Implement a Four-Day Workweek."

An Even Shorter Work Week

Some economists have suggested going beyond the four-day schedule and reducing the actual number of hours in the work week, a step that France took in 2000 when it adopted the 35-hour week as national policy (although it has since revised this). Or, check out the New Economics Foundation's compelling argument for an optimal work week of 21 Hours. According to NEF, cutting the work week by nearly half "could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life."

Related Resources:

Beyond Consumerism: Reclaiming Our Time

Counter-Intuition 101: Why Recent Bad Economic News Means It’s Time for Working Less

Economic Fallacies: Is It Time to Work More, or Less?