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Companies Consider 4-Day Work Week

May 10, 2011

CalendarAccording to MSNBC, more and more companies are rethinking the standard five-day, 40-hour workweek.

Some companies say they are trying a four-day, 10-hour workweek to increase personal time and encourage a better work-life balance.

"I want to spend more time with my family, and I'm really curious to see if results are going to stay the same," said Bert Martinez, CEO of a business-training firm in Houston who is allowing himself and his staff of 28 to work a shorter workweek.

MSNBC, however, pointed out that the trend is driven more by the bottom line as it started with offices enforcing mandatory furloughs to make up for budget gaps.

The New York Times reported that in 2008, just before the height of the recession, Utah implemented a 4/10 workweek for state workers and closed non-emergency services on Fridays to see if it would save the state some money as well as reduce impact on the environment. Since then, at least six other states, including Texas and Oregon, have considered following suit.

Advocates of the shorter workweek argue that such flexibility would increase workplace efficiency. MSNBC reported that a 2005 study by Microsoft showed that employees who put in 45 hours of work a week were only productive for about three days. According to The New York Times, Friday closings in Utah resulted in less traffic and increased energy savings.

Critics, on the other hand, question just how much the 4/10 schedule would save and see it as more of an inconvenience than anything else.

"I think government should be open five days a week, particularly in these tough economic times," said Darren Rogers, who works in the Utah Department of Workforce Services. "I have found it's hard to do the work and sometimes hard to get everyone scheduled within those four days," he said.

Many also say that the 5-day workweek has simply been in place too long that today's system would not allow for anything else. Cali Yost, CEO of consulting firm Work+Life Fit Inc., said that "many if not all human resource policies and corporate financial reporting systems are built around and reinforce the inflexible 40 hours, five-days-a-week, in the office model."

Utah Representative Michael E. Noel called the 4/10 schedule inefficient and "stupid". According to Deseret News, many lawmakers agreed and recently convened for a rare session vote that reinstated the five-day workweek. Under the new law, state agencies have more freedom to choose which locations should be re-opened on Fridays, the hours of operation and the number of hours employees work per day as long as the agencies are staffed properly and open for the required nine hours a day, five days a week.

According to The New York Times, the debate in Utah is likely to discourage other states from converting to a 4/10 workweek. But Oregon Representative Paul Holvey remains persistent.

"Legislation in Oregon is not going forward at this point, but conversation is," he said.


Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff

Sources:

"Employers rethinking five-day workweek," msnbc.msn.com, May 8, 2011, Eve Tahmincioglu

"Testing Budget Solutions, Utah Trims the Workweek," NYTimes.com, May 2, 2011, Kirk Johnson

"Utah workers mixed on returning to 5-day workweek," deseretnews.com, May 9, 2011, Richard Piatt

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