Being a worker bee myself the idea of a 4 day work week makes me giddy, but for upper level management and senior staff it probably makes their stomach churn.  After doing quite a bit of research I believe this idea will be the future of the American working landscape because of the benefits it offers to not only the employees, but the company and Mother Nature.

The traditional 5 day 8 hour work week was instituted by the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938.  70 years ago this was a vast improvement for the many Americans who worked 10 plus hours and 6 days a week.  In a time when change now comes daily how is it that this is a model that has endured?  Innovation has become a must in today’s working environment, and Utah just might be the innovators we all need to change our reality from living to work to working to live.

In 2008 the state of Utah implemented a 4 day work week for it’s 17,000 state employees.Utah state workers now work 10 hour shifts 4 days a week, which has cut energy use by 13% and saved employees as much as $6 million in gas cost.  The state is estimating it will cut green house gas emissions by more than 12,000 metric tons a year.  In 2006 the United States green house gas emissions were 7,181.4 million metric tons.  Comparing the two numbers makes 12,000 look like small potatoes, but if a 4 day work week was implemented on a national scale just imagine the impact we can have on the planet. The force behind this mandate was to reduce energy costs for the state, but the extra incentives are what will keep the initiative trucking along.

The benefits of a 4 day work week for companies and employees go hand in hand.  With the implementation of a 4 day work week comes a sharper focus and more productive workplace.  In 2007 salary.com did a survey and concluded the average employee spends 2 work hours a day surfing the internet or interacting with friends.  That is your 5th work day, so why not just cut it out all together?  With more personal time employees might not feel the need to create personal time on the clock.  In 1930 W.K. Kellog decreased his companies work week from 40 hours to 30, and had this to say about it, “The efficiency and morale of our employees is so increased, the accident and insurance rates are so improved, and the unit cost of production is so lowered that we can afford to pay as much for six hours as we formerly paid for eight.”

Happy employees are efficient employees and study after study has proven this.  With an extra personal day a week employees are less distracted by tasks they need to get done at home, play “hooky” less, and need less time off during working hours for doctor’s appointments and the like. 

The last benefit I would like to point out is the benefit to your customers.  The state of Utah saw an unexpected benefit to the 4 day work week.  Having longer office hours 4 days a week made Utah’s government offices more accessible to people who in the past had to miss work to get there in time.

4 day work weeks might not be something every workplace in America will be able to implement, or implement right away.  But with advances in technology and mobilization soon many companies will not even need a physical office and will move to a virtual one. 4 day work weeks or less in office work time creates healthy employees, a healthy bottom line and a healthy earth.

Sources:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1919162,00.html

http://www.groovygreen.com/groove/?p=2223