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OUT: Buzz on the 4-Day Work Week. IN: Discretionary Effort...

The four-day work week.  A sucker's play.

Lance Haun revisited the topic of the 4-day work week late last week over at TLNT.com.  Lance remembersOffice_hours_007 that Utah ushered in a 4-day work week policy a few years back, with the move getting a ton of hand-wringing and pontification that other states and even (gasp!) private industry would follow suit.

What happened? Public sector employers have continued to make the 4-day work week grab.  Lance points to Winston-Salem, NC, Effingham County, GA, and Franklin (VA) City Public Schools as having recently implemented four-day work weeks. Lance also identified more cities like Westminster, CO and Indio, CA as considering using the four day work week.

Of course, that tsunami of 4-day work week adoption never came in the private sector.  Why not?  Lance thinks in government offices, even exempt employees work fairly rigid schedules, and in most of the white collar, exempt employee world, that rigidity doesn’t exist. 

He's right, but I'll shoot to kill with my observation - many exempt government workers act like hourly employees.  Rigid schedules is code for "not inspired to provide any discretionary effort whatsoever".

How sad is it to work in a job that doesn't inspire you to give more freely (this post written at 10:20 on a Sunday night)?  By all accounts it sucks.

Want to rob your workforce of the willingness to provide discretionary effort (effort they could give but don't have to)?  There are many ways to suck the motivation out of a worker, but counting hours has to be among the top ways.  I'll leave you with the following breakdown of how the four-day workweek plays into that from a post I cranked out back in the day (I count 2008 as back in the day):

"I get that most businesses have office hours, even for exempt employees.  I also know that manufacturing environments have to hard-code hours from a production standpoint.  I get that.  For the purposes of the rest of the rant, I'm going to address your exempt level professional worker who is not supervising a production/manufacturing environment.  You know the type - they have decision making authority about when and how they work on their responsibilities and objectives.

By moving to a 4 day work week, you just told them the job was about hours - not about meeting the objectives, not about helping the company hit its plan, and certainly not about dreaming up an innovation through their engagement level with their job.  You may not know it, or be willing to agree with it, but by moving them to a 4 day week, you just told them their objective was (shudder..) 40 HOURS." 

The four-day work week.  Launch it and watch the discretionary effort go down.  Here's an idea - give up the evil kung fu grip on office hours and give a telecommuting day per week.  See how much discretionary effort you get as a result of that move vs. the four-day work week.

Do what's hard vs. what's intellectually lazy. Now that I think about it, that's a great t-shirt.


Mary Rene

Ridiculous: just get creative. My boss had us on a 4 day week in the early 80's and everyone loved it. All of us shared a rotating day off. Office hours were 8-6 every day. Every week you got the next day off--so when you got to FRIDAY--you got off MONDAY AS WELL. No more sick days, or days off for doctor or dentist appointments. We could plan ahead for romantic getaways. Morale was never better. Unfortunately I took a transfer to a department that didn't have this philosophy.

Jack Corthell

My employees love the 4 day work week. I save almost $1000.00 per month in utilities (Florida, air conditioning. Exempt employees work 5 days a week in front offices. Morale seems good and I never have a problem with someone (exempt or non-exempt) having to put in extra time to meet production schedules.


We also have had great success in the 4 day work week. It's all about striking the work-life balance. Once you show the employee that you want what is best for them, they're willing to go a lot further for you. Yeah, it's touchy-feely, but we're in HR, right? I hate to say it KD, but I'm going to have to disagree with this post. Employees still put in their time and get the work done. They will stay later and come in earlier and use their time more efficiently so they can have the incentive of a day off. It is good for business on every level. Employees are engaged and motivated. I will put one of my engaged 4-day 40 hour employees up against your burnt out 60 hour employee any day of the week.


Last summer during the economic downturn, our company went to four day work weeks and a pay cut. Of course, the same amount of "stuff" needed to get done, so we frequently worked later during the week, but I don't know a single person who didn't think the day off was worth the cut in pay. That extra day to get things done at home, be with your kids, travel--you could come back to work on Monday feeling fresh and ready to focus. I miss those days!


The problem with the 10/40 plan is that you get worn out more easily at the end of the day. Yes, you do have another day day get things done, but this does not work if you work for the government and you need to deal with another government agency that is also closed on Friday. In order for this plan to work maybe we should have some agencies closed other days so that the needs of the public are met.
Another example of this is when I worked nights, I thought that I would be able to get more things done during the day. Then I found out that I needed my sleep and I was not able to get things done as I thought. Getting used to the extra two hours of work each day is as hard as retraining your body to sleep during the sunlight hours.

Angie Koponen

When I worked a four day work week I was much more productive and happier. I used my week day off to do all my personal errands and so my weekend was much more relaxed and refreshing. Two years ago I went to a five day schedule and have been horribly unproductive and unhappy since. The job I loved on a four day schedule has become very boring. If I started a new business of my own I would design it around a four day week from the beginning and be very flexible about time and office hours. In fact, telecommuting would also be encouraged. I'd worry more about productivity and outcomes than when and where the work was completed. If the finished report showed up on my desk on Monday morning as required and I knew it was written on the beach, I'd love it. Quality of life would be encouraged.

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