Why Some Employers Are Trying The 4-Day Workweek
In an era in which employers are cutting all imaginable costs to simply keep the lights on, it's not surprising that a few pioneering employers are experimenting with four-day workweeks. Georgia and Virginia have implemented trial phases of a plan for some government workers, reports the BBC.
Even a few private employers have tried it and report positive results. Steven Shattuck, 28, is a community manager at Slingshot SEO, a search engine optimization consultancy based in Indianapolis. He says that the company's four-day-a-week schedule is a "selling point" in recruiting new talent. And it invigorates the staff, he told the BBC
"We have really tight deadlines, it's very collaborative, we try to squeeze as much into our days as possible," Shattuck says. "On Monday mornings people aren't so groggy -- they hit the ground running."
At 37signals, a software firm, employees work a 32-hour, four-day workweek from May through October, and its CEO claims that he's seen an increase in productivity. "When there's less time to work, you waste less time," he wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times. "When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what's important."
Many sectors in the United Kingdom and Netherlands make use of a shortened workweek, but in the U.S., while employers may be willing to offer some flexibility, such as the ability to telecommute, the four-day workweek remains a fringe experiment.
During the recession, a few employers cut hours -- and pay -- as a way to reduce costs, but most backed away from that. Utah, for instance, famously put into place a four-day workweek for 17,000 government workers back in 2008. Early reviews of the plan were positive. As Time magazine reported, after a year on the four-day workweek plan, the state coffers saw a 13 percent reduction in energy use. But by the third year of its application, the "4/10 workweek" stopped showing any savings in legislative audits, and in 2011, the Beehive state decided to ditch the plan.
Oregon and Texas considered and rejected a four-day workweek plan. And now, perhaps the biggest experiment is taking place on the other side of the Atlantic, in the West African country of the Gambia. On the orders of strongman Yahya Jammeh, The Gambia instituted a four-day workweek for its public sector workers effective Friday. For the mostly Muslim country, the idea is for workers to put in more hours over fewer days so that its citizens can "devote more time to ... agriculture," such as peanut harvesting, a vital aspect of the national economy, according to UPI.
What do you think? Would your workplace benefit from a four-day-a-week workweek? Share your comments below.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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