The Four Day Work Week: Sixteen Reasons Why This Might Be an Idea Whose Time Has Come

This is a guest post by Aaron Newton, who is working with coauthor Sharon Astyk on the forthcoming book, A Nation of Farmers. Aaron contributes at Groovy Green; he also blogs at Powering Down. Aaron is a land planner and garden farmer in suburban North Carolina, seeking ways to transform the current course of human land use development in an effort to prepare for the effects of global oil production peak and its outcome on automotive suburban America.

The notion of our standard work week here in America has remained largely the same since 1938. That was the year the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, standardizing the eight hour work day and the 40 hour work week. Each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday workers all over the country wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast and go to work. But the notion that the majority of the workforce should keep these hours is based on nothing more than an idea put forth but the Federal government almost 70 years ago. To be sure it was an improvement in the lives of many Americans who were at the time forced to work 10+ hours a day, sometimes 6 days of the week. So a 40 hour work week was seen as an upgrade in the lives of many of U.S. citizens. 8 is a nice round number; one third of each 24 hour day. In theory it leaves 8 hours for sleep and 8 hours for other activities like eating, bathing, raising children and enjoying life. But the notion that we should work for 5 of these days in a row before taking 2 for ourselves is, as best I can tell, rather arbitrary.

The idea of a shorter work week is not a new one to anyone old enough to have lived through the energy shocks of the 1970's. It should be fairly obvious to anyone interested in conserving oil that reducing the number of daily commutes per week would reduce the overall demand for oil. There are about 133 million workers in America. Around 80% of them get to work by driving alone in a car. The average commute covers about 16 miles each way.

So let's stop and do some math...and I'll try to argue for 16 reasons why a four day work week is a good idea.

The math, as I see it, goes as thus (I welcome a discussion of these numbers, by the way...):

133,000,000 workers X 80% who drive alone = 106,400,000 single driver commuter cars each day.

106,400,000 X 32 miles round trip = 3,404,800,000 miles driven to work each day

3,404,800,000 / 21 mpg (average fuel efficiency) = 162,133,333 gallons of gasoline each day

Each barrel of crude oil produces, on average, 19.5 gallons of gas. (It is important to note that other products like kerosene and asphalt are produced from that same barrel.)

162,133,333 / 19.5 = 8,314,530 barrels of oil each day.

What this shows is Reason #1; the impact a 4 day work week could have on crude oil imports. I'm talking about a reduction (5-10%? and perhaps even more--ED by PG) in the amount of oil we need Monday through Friday simply by rearranging our work week. No wonder this idea was utilized in the 70's.

But the clear fact that a 4 day work week would save such a precious non-renewable resource is just the first of 16 reasons why I think it's time to revive the idea of reducing the numbers of days we work each week.

Reason #2 The 4 Day Work Week would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants.

As you pull out of your driveway on your way to work your automobile has already begun to emit Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Hydrocarbons, Ozone, particulates, Lead and Chlorofluorcarbons. Some of these compounds are responsible for the greenhouse effect that is warming our planet and throwing our global climate system into increasing instability. Others of them contribute to air pollution that causes everything from dramatically rising rates of childhood asthma to cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses. Sometimes I drive to work too, so don't think the whole thing is your fault. But it's true that we're playing fast and loose with our ecosystem and poisoning ourselves with our autos. 60-70% of urban air pollution is caused by cars. Taking 20% of them off the roads during the most heavily traveled time of the day would obviously reduce the overall amount of pollutants produced by our autos. And this is key, if a worker transitions to a 4 Day Work Week and then spends all day off driving around when he or she would have be at work, then the savings in terms of fuel and pollution will be lost. This is not a plan to provide everyone with more time to drive around but a plan to bring people back into their homes and their local communities. It's an effort to give them more time with family, more time to exercise, more time to write the great American novel or learn to keep bees, or get another degree, or start a garden.

Reason #3 The 4 Day Work Week would reduce workers exposure to pollutants.

A recent study by the California EPA says "50% of a person's daily exposure to ultra fine particles (the particles linked to cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses) can occur during a commute." A report by the Clean Air Task Force in 2007 found diesel particle levels were between 4 to 8 times higher in commute vehicles than in the surrounding air. It makes sense when you think about it. The pollution coming from the tailpipe of a vehicle is mostly likely to affect you while you're sitting directly behind it, especially if you're stuck in slow moving traffic where the concentrations of such particles can build up.

Reason #4 The 4 Day Work Week would mean less traffic congestion.

Rush hour exists because everyone needs to get to work at about the same time. Anyone who's lived in a city of size can tell you that early in the morning and late in the afternoon the roads fill up. The average 16 mile commutes takes 26 minutes each way. That's 52 minutes a day traveling at roughly 35 miles per hour. Imagine if 1/5 of the cars suddenly disappeared? If the work week was staggered so that 1/5 of all workers took a different day off, the U.S. commuter would see a 20% reduction in rush hour congestion without building a single new road. Which leads nicely to the next reason:

Reason #5 The 4 Day Work Week would reduce money spent on new road construction and existing road maintenance.

With 1/5 few cars making the commute each day, fewer new road projects would be necessary and existing roads would last longer with less maintenance. This is not to say that we shouldn't take advantage of this cost savings to invest in alternative transportation systems. In fact it's the opposite. This could be a gift to the tax payer who would receive new and better options for travel without any rise in taxes.

Reason #6 The 4 Day Work Week would result in a reduction in personal expenses.


"2002 annual household private vehicle expense is $7,371. This is divided into $3,665 for vehicle purchases, $1,235 for gas and oil and $2,471 for insurance and misc."
If workers used their cars 20% less often to drive to work, they would see a reduction in the frequency of oil changes, tune ups and the purchase of new tires just to name a few savings. The above numbers also reflect the price of gasoline in 2002. We all know it has increase since then and will continue to increase now that global oil production has peaked. Remember those 162,133,333 gallons of gas we're going to save?

162,133,333 X $2.75 per gallon = $445,866,665.00

This would save US workers a lot of money! And because our cars would be driven less frequently, they wouldn't need to be replaced as often. That's not to say that would shouldn't try to replace inefficient older cars with more efficient new ones, but this could give the auto manufactures time to wake up to the global peak in oil production and make changes in the types of vehicles they offer. It could also give communities time to respond with planning strategies that favor other types of transportation including walking, biking and mass transit.

Reason #7 The 4 Day Work Week would mean fewer auto accidents each year.

I don't have statistics on the number of automobile related deaths and injuries that occur specifically during rush hour but almost every radio station on the dial offers a regular update of car crashes throughout each morning and evening commute. It seems safe to assume that fewer cars on the road during those periods of time would result in fewer accidents and the injuries that result from them.

Reason #8 The 4 Day Work Week would mean less time spent in VSC or Voluntary Solitary Confinement

Now some people tell me the time they spend alone in their car is relaxing. Personally I think if that's true then what those people are really enjoying is time alone on uncongested roads. Rush hour on a busy street is not relaxing. Personal time away from other people can be a positive experience. But we don't have to spend our time alone in a metal box burning nonrenewable resources that heat the planet. If less time was spent commuting each week, people would have more time for themselves to enjoy, even if they wanted to enjoy that time alone. It seems to me that as a nation we are experiencing an epidemic of disconnect. Ever see those people early in the morning on their way to work at 6:30am talking on their cell phones? Just who are they talking to? Maybe some of them are already working (before even arriving at work) but I bet many of them are talking to other friends and family who are, quite possibly, out in traffic too. How many of you have ever made a cell phone call because you were bored or lonely in your car? I have friends who will call me and announce that's what they're doing, calling me to get some company. The car is an insulator that keeps us from interacting and as naturally social creatures this isn't a good practice. Less time spent in cars can mean more time spent with other human beings living life.

Reason #9 The 4 Day Work Week would mean a reduction in absenteeism

A recent survey found that 43% of respondents admitted to playing hooky last year. That is they stayed home from work even though they weren't sick. Another day scheduled during the week to address the needs and wants of workers would give people more time to complete all sorts of activities. It could keep them from taking their own day off. It could also give people a day to schedule appointments like medical, dental, tax, attorney or other. A Four Day Work Week would mean fewer random interruptions when workers must leave the office to take care of these matters. Even the occasional summer day spent hiking with a child sounds like a good national exercise to me.

Reason #10 The 4 Day Work Week would increase productivity

Yes I said "increase productivity."

In 1930 famed cereal maker W.K. Kellog had this to say about his decision to decrease his companies work week from 40 to 30 hours.

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.

Peak oil and climate change could make for turbulent business waters ahead. This country needs more business leaders willing to navigate these waters not by burdening their workforce with limitations or restrictions but with a willingness to try new strategies. Ideas such as this one should be strongly considered by corporate America or maybe it's time for the Federal government to revisit this issue through law. New ways of working really could benefit both businesses and employees. It's important in the time ahead not to simply saddle the workers of America with the rising costs of energy and ecological destruction.

There are lots options concerning the number of hours a 4 Day Work Week could contain. Employees could work 10 hours a day and keep a 40 hour work week. Or they could simply eliminate an entire day and drop down to a 32 hour work week. In between is the idea of working 4 days a week, 9 hours a day. But regardless of how many hours people work, the important part to remember is that most tasks are going to get accomplished each week just as they did before. A recent survey by of over 10,000 American workers revealed that on average, we waste more than 2 hours each day surfing the web or making phone calls to friends. Might these distractions be activities that workers must be willing to trade for an entire extra day off to spend surfing on the Internet? I say that tongue in cheek as there are better ways to spend your new day off but the point is that the inbox is never empty and that important tasks could probably be completed in a shorter work week if time spent at work was all about work. A shorter work week would sharpen this focus and make the workplace more productive.

Reason #11 The 4 Day Work Week would give us more time for family

60% of Americans say they do not have enough time for family. To be sure we could change that statement to read, make time for family, because time is after all what you make it. It's important to note that we work more hours than any other nation on the planet. But why? Why do we work? I think this question is at the heart of support for a shorter work week. We work so we can support our families right? But is more money and the always increasing amount of stuff that money buys really supporting our families? We have to pay bills but would your son rather have you at home or have a new flat screen television? 7 out of 10 teenage pregnancies are conceived at the home of the young girl between the hours of 3pm and 5pm. It is my view that what might be in my daughter's best interest isn't me working 50 hours a week so I can buy her a sweet sixteen car. It might be spending more time at home with my daughter talking to her about her future. A shorter work week would give this nation an opportunity to spend more time at home with our families.

Reason #12 The 4 Day Work Week would decrease labor costs

Long work hours increase the worker turnover rate which leads to more money spent on acquiring and training new employees. Employees who have almost as many days to spend on their own as days they spend working will be much happier and more loyal. These are employees who will work harder and stay longer at any given company.

Reason #13 The 4 Day Work Week would decrease operational costs

Depending on just how a company chooses to structure its 4 Day Work Week, any number of operational costs could be reduced. The energy savings from the climate control of unoccupied buildings could be enormous. Fewer security or maintenance issues could result from having a smaller number of people in the office each day. A shorter work week could mean more infrequent cleanings and less information technology service calls.

Reason #14 The 4 Day Work Week would mean a reduction in the cost of childcare

If a two parent household were to switch to a 4 Day Work Week then their childcare costs could be reduced by 40%. Childcare ranges in cost depending on the type care and the specific location in which a worker lives. Estimates range from $3,000 to $15,000 annually per child. A family spending $5,000 who could reduce the number of days their child is in care from 5 days to 3 could save $2,000 a year. This also means more of the child's time spent with parents which fosters stronger families. It is important to note here that childcare that exceeds the normal 8 hour work day is more expensive. If both parents switched to 10 hour work days their childcare costs might not decrease.

Reason #15 The 4 Day Work Week would provide time for a transition into the informal economy

There are a lot of reasons why consumer culture is bad for us. It focuses not on people and their relationships to one another but instead on things, on stuff, on cheap plastic crap from Mal-Wart. It's worth pointing out that not only is our habit of consuming mass quantities of junk toxifying our lives and our environment with all sorts of chemicals and pollution, it's also using up a number of nonrenewable resources at an alarming rate. It seems reasonable to assume that we can't continue on this ride of infinite growth for a whole lot longer. The coming era will be one of a decline in the availability of all sorts of resources we take for granted right now. Learning how to reshape and relocalize our lives will be an immense effort for both communities and the individuals living in them. Having an extra day each week to begin this process could prove invaluable. Need time to learn how to cook or garden? Have you always wanted to start a new cottage industry business from home? Maybe you'd like to be more activity in volunteer efforts in your community to address peak oil and climate change. This extra day could be our ticket as a nation to scaling back on our consumption while we reconnect to local life.

Reason #16 The 4 Day Work Week feels great!

I write this proposal not as an academic making a theoretical suggestion but as a participant in the new 4 Day Work Week movement. At the beginning of 2007 I renegotiated my contract with my employer and started staying home on Fridays. I now have more than a two day speed bump on the highway of American employment. I get to enjoy almost as many days at home each week as I spend working at my job. And it feels wonderful. Since making the change I have even taken a new job and was still able to continue with my shorter work week. 25% of U.S. companies already have some sort of policy towards alternative work schedules.

Telecommuting, cell phones and the Internet are just some of the other tools that can offer more flexibility to the outdated idea that we should all be at the office from 8 to 5 on Monday through Friday. I can tell you from experience that this feels great. I am able to spend time on projects that are important to me. I get to see my young daughter more. Lately it's been a Friday bike ride together. And I have a chance to share my ideas with more time to write proposals like this one.

Changes require action. Our nation is at a point where we need change. Not politicians talking about change but an actual change in the way we live our lives. The 4 Day Work Week could be a catalyst for a change from a nation that lives to work into a nation that works to live. Come join me won't you?

Ten hour workdays tend to lead to fatigue and lower productivity for many.

I think a 9 hour work week with alternating three day weekends would be a good compromise. The extra half hour/week would help make up for lost productivity to the employers.


IME, you are correct. I would not be in favor of a 4-day work week if it was still 40 hours a week. Ten hours is too much.

We used to have "summer flex time" in our office. You could have any schedule you wanted for the summer, as long as you submitted it to the boss at the beginning of the summer, so others knew when they could expect you to be in. One summer, I went for a four-day work week, and regretted it. Ten hours a day was very dreary and exhausting.

The next summer, I went with alternate Fridays off, which was better. But most people ended up taking alternate Friday afternoons off, because even nine days a week resulted in work days that were too long.

I suppose it would be different for different types of jobs. At least in WA and AK, it's common for low-skilled industrial workers to work sixty and sometimes seasonal eighty-hour weeks. You get paid overtime for anything above forty.The added overtime would make these jobs more appealing.

Wimps. No wonder America is going down the tubes.

Try 5x12 hours at night.

Go for the Gusto!

7x12 hours. Three weeks on, three weeks off.

7x12 hours. Three weeks on, three weeks off.

The only guys I knew who did that worked in the marine industry out on the ships. That you?

In a prior life I worked marine SAR and this was 7x12, two on, two off. It was a great schedule for a young person and I sometimes kick myself for leaving it. But the government kept cutting the budget. A floating combo firetruck, ambulance, and towtruck was one thing; a floating hearse was something else again.

The standard rotation in the offshore industry is 7x12 3 on, 3 off. My "rotation" was phone call at 0200, call up a helicopter and out to the rig until whenever.

I did that packaging granola bars 7pm to 7am. Good times.

As a resident physician I regularly worked 36 to 38 hour shifts and 100 to 110 hours per week. Often I would get at least a couple hours of sleep but I recall having twelve 36+ hour shifts (in the ICU or CCU) where I did not even see the call room let alone get any sleep. This was every 4th night call. So work schedule was 36 hours on/ 12 off/ 12 on /12 off/ 12 on / 12 off/ 36 on. It did cut down on the commute a little I suppose bc/ every 4th day you just skipped one trip home and back. And to think the lives of very sick people on life support were in my weary hands!

When I was in med school, the surgery program there had an ICU rotation for the interns where they were on call every other night so it was basically 38 hours on/ 10 off/ 38 hour on... Most of these people were from out of town and had family come into town to live at their apt. or hired people to take care of their affairs for the month.

Now residencies theoretically limit hours to no more than 80 per week and not more than 30 hours straight.

Flexibility is the key. One size does not fit all.

I worked a Mon 13, Tue 13, Thur 14 for a while and it was a great schedule. My job was 'white collar', not sure that I would want to work days that long if I were in construction, but....

After most folks went home at 5 I was able to be much more productive. The phone wasn't ringing, people weren't stopping by the office to shoot the breeze....

Had Wednesday to get the chores done and a three day weekend every week.


One place that a 3 or 4 day would really improve things is here in the mountains where the Cal Trans crews come out to work on the roads.

They work an 8 hour day. It's about 10am by the time they load up and drive to the site, 10:30 by the time they get the flag stops set up.

They break at 12:00 for lunch. And start packing up to go home about 3:30.

Roughly four hours of paid "work" time on the road each day. One hour setting up, taking down.

Leaves three hours for work. (Fifteen hours out of forty.)

One less work day would add four hours of productivity.

I've worked odd hours sometimes. Some things I loved, some things I didn't. I used to work a night shift at a deli. It was nice to do my shopping at 2 am when there were no crowds around, and to have the days free. OTOH, it was a real drag on my social life, since all my friends socialized in the evenings, while I was at work.

I sometimes work evenings and weekends, and I like the peace of a quiet office. But there are drawbacks. If the network goes down, there's no one to fix it. And the building is often physically uncomfortable, since they turn off the heat/air conditioning outside regular work hours. There are also security issues, like the superior with a drinking problem came in late in order to grope me, knowing I would be alone.

How long is a "ten-hour-day" when you add on an unpaid lunch (lunch is not required to be compensated under Federal Law) and commute times? 11 hours? 12?

This is a terrible idea for lots of workers, especially parents, and laborers, and the physically weakend.

Goose, do you ride? I started at age 11, and 27 years later, I'm still at it. (current ride - '03 BMW R1150GS)

absolutely, damac. I ride four days a week to's absolutely liberating. I've not been in my car much at all lately other than for long-range travel.

I recommend it if it's viable for you, whether biking or scootering or something.

Of course, biking is best for you, but even the scooter, once you get used to it, it really is not that hard. Get some panniers/scooter storage though!

Been riding an Aprillia Scarabeo 50cc scoot ever since a friend in the oil industry said gas is going to the moon shortly. I get 90mpg and the insurance is 102.00 per year. cheap cheap cool down after working 12 on 2 off 8hr shfts.

Two of the last three companies I've worked for do that. They call it "the nine eighty work week".

The biggest obstacle against it in the other companies I've worked for is management's belief that their customers won't tolerate the plant being shut down every other Friday.

My company does that 4 9 hours days + 1 8 hour day one week, and then 4 9 hour days the next week. This was in response to a request by a local city to have employers get their employees to reduced commutes by 10%. I guess taking 10% of the days out of the picture is easier than trying to get people to carpool or ride public transit. Not all people do it though. People with kids cannot afford the extra hour for the daycare and some people find 9 hour days too long.

Why not a three day week? If we all moved near our jobs we could eliminate most automobile production and there goes a good 20% of labor needs not to mention traffic cops and over and over in the spiral of dubious necessities that we have become entitled to.

Social organisation is a necessity, but its form is arbitrary. Who will shoot the sacred cow? We're actually working a nine day week if you take into account all the labor done on our behalf in other countries so that we can cruise around in 'clown cars' selling real estate and financial instruments. If we actually made what we consume we wouldn't have the time to consume it!

Most important question is this: "What are we doing during the 40 hour, 5 day week to start with?" In other words, what is the Net Creative output of all the time we spend driving around to jobs to pay for cars to drive around?

We can argue about a percentage here or there, and the means of transport, but the bottom line is to ask if what we do every day is contributing more to the world than the resources we burn up doing it.

As for work weeks, I've spent my time in the grind, working 88 hour weeks, traveling weekends between jobs, with no vacations. I've also spent time as a homemaker and gardener. In between is the farm life, which has little separation between work and play. The toughest thing is deciding what I should be doing each day that will not waste the little time I have available. Coming here is valuable, and it uses very little energy.

The 40 hour week was started during a single earner lifestyle. Most households have at least two earners and they both work extra hours, not to mention the time spent commuting. The end result is higher health care costs, more demand for wars to 'secure' oil supplies, and lack of reasoned judgement when consuming, probably due to lack of sleep and RE-creation time (not to be confused with enter-train-ment).

Our social structure is F.I. ( insane) when you really look at the direction we are heading. The only advocates talking to our representatives on a regular basis are businessmen and 'non'profit organizations which only thrive if we maintain consumption levels and (taxable and tax-deductible) earning levels.
Isn't it time to slow things down?

" If you want Change, keep it in your pocket. Buy less, buy local, make it yourself or do without. What is your NET Creativity?"

Good points, antigrav.

I have some other beef with the article, which IMO is good in theory, but would lack something in application. The following could seriously dent any benefits:

1. Those struggling financially would have a greater opportunity (more time available) to find and spend in part-time work (potentially driving anyway).

2. Those with the discretionary income may be more inclined to take short trips (think long weekends now), or just simply spend the extra day driving to friend's, shopping malls, etc.

Basically, a day off work doesn't necessarily mean a day without driving, and in many cases, does not. That may change in harder economic times, however.

Having said that, it would be a great boon for family life, and in fact, that is the main reason I am cutting back to a 4-day week in a few months - so I can spend an extra day with my soon-to-be baby.

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."
Albert Einstein


Sacred cows should be tipped, not shot

The usual 10%?


this is a great one to send around the blogosphere...if you are so inclined we appreciate the help.

I'd love a 4-day work week, for purely selfish reasons. Three-day weekend!

Actually, my employer does have 4-day workweeks for some departments. I think it's so they can save money on equipment. They don't have to buy as many trucks, laptops, GPS's, etc. It's almost like shiftwork, in a way, only it's over the week instead of over the day.

And some schools in the U.S. have gone to a 4-day week, because they didn't have money for the increased heating and transportation costs, and it was politically impossible to raise taxes.

I am not sure how much oil it would save if everyone did it, though. It might reduce congestion a little, which would help. OTOH, people not working won't necessarily sit at home. The extra day off may turn out to be an extra day for shopping, road trips, or other consumption.

As for absenteeism...maybe for some, it's simply because they don't have time, but I suspect for many, the problem is they need time off while others are working. To go to the bank, the post office, etc. A friend of mine used to go weeks between cashing her checks, because she didn't have time to go to the bank and her employer didn't offer direct deposit. Her boss was irate, and asked her why she didn't cash the checks promptly. She explained the problem, which was he should have been aware of, since he was the one keeping her on the job site from dawn to dusk. He had no sympathy...until she asked him how he cashed his checks, and he had to confess his stay-at-home wife did it for him.

In many ways, the world is still set up for Ozzie and Harriet, and if both parents are working, or you're single, you're out of luck. A shorter work week won't change that. Unless the day off is staggered, which will cause other problems.

Gas up the boat and RV Mabel, we have 3 days to Party!!!!


And to grow tomatos - yeh!

Ha! There's on simple reason it won't happen this side of Chavez winning here in '08: the five day week is already a 9, 10 or more hour week for many. Money, corporate capitalism, will never allow it, now less than ever. Not universal health care, not a four day work week, not any of it. We're on the defense, not the offense for the time being.

Growing up in the '60s, I remember some of the fantasies we were fed about what the 21st century would be like. Of course, there would be flying cars and vacations to the moon and Mars, but one of the biggest miscalculations was that robots would free us from labor and thus we'd all enjoy much shorter work weeks. Needless to say, things didn't work out that way.

Or maybe I should take that back. Lots of Americans now "enjoy" 35-hour work weeks at minimum wage, so that their employers can classify them as "part-time" and thus avoid paying any fringe benefits like unemployment insurance, worker's compensation, etc.

I bet we'll see vacations on Mars before we see 20-hour work weeks with health insurance and other benefits.

... one of the biggest miscalculations was that robots would free us from labor and thus we'd all enjoy much shorter work weeks. Needless to say, things didn't work out that way.

Actually, you can think of the Chinese as the "robots".

However, we now have a gigantic "service economy" that did not exist on this scale before.

Growing up in the '60s, I remember some of the fantasies we were fed about what the 21st century would be like. Of course, there would be flying cars and vacations to the moon and Mars, but one of the biggest miscalculations was that robots would free us from labor and thus we'd all enjoy much shorter work weeks. Needless to say, things didn't work out that way.

I don't know about you, but I have a washing machine, a drier, a dishwasher, all of which help me out with those daily duties at home. Robots help out with welding on cars these days, and I've even pondered getting one of those "Roomba" vacuum cleaners. Especially now that you can program them to auto vacuum while you're out at work, and automatically return to their charging station to recharge, etc. When they automatically dump their collected dust into the trash, we'll really be talking.

The problem is, most robots have taken over doing productive work, freeing us up time to do worthless things like flip burgers and give out loans.

Maybe we'll figure out that we can simply work less hours, instead of working the same amount of hours and having more toys like flat screen TVs. Until then, I'm looking for that automated, self-charging lawn mower.

~Durandal (

That brings up an excellent point, the reason many of us are trapped in the 40 hour work week is that we forfeit medical benefits if we go part-time. Nationalized healthcare would reduce the incentive for businesses to limit the number of workers (health insurance is a massive cost for corporations) and have existing workers work ever more hours. In addition, it would allow people to cut back to 35 hours (or whatever you think is manageable) without losing their financial security.

Another action that would help would be lowering income taxes for the lower 75%, income taxes increase the cost of labour, perhaps the one resource we have in excess in the world. Perhaps a carbon tax or stricter taxes on corporations would make up the shortfall.

Any solution to peak oil, global warming and poverty will depend on wide or universal access to contraception.

Much as I like your idea, I should point out one possible flaw in your assumptions:

You are essentially assuming that employees would just stay home during that extra day each week. Is that a valid assumption? How many would take advantage of a weekly three-day holiday to hit the road on mini-vacations? How many would spend their time by driving to the malls for shopping trips? How many would try to supplement their incomes by taking on second jobs during the weekend (jobs that would be available in abundance as the numbers of shoppers increased)?

I should also point out that while your plan might work for some jobs, it could not work for all. People who had Fridays off would expect to get personal tasks done on Fridays, including visits to doctor's offices, renewing their driver's licenses, etc., etc. All of those institutions are going to have to keep their doors opened and be staffed on those days. Perhaps larger institutions could cope by distributing the days off of their employees throughout the week, with just 20% off on any weekday. Unfortunately, getting a day off mid-week would be far less attractive to employees compared to getting every Friday off; I think it would just be a lot harder "sell".

Thus, I suspect that the realistic potential impact for your plan would be considerably less than your calculations suggest. Nevertheless, it could be helpful wherever it could be implemented.

Before I even read past the first point, this is exactly what I thought of. I ride to work when the weather is nice and even when I drive, my commute is shorter than most. The majority of the miles I drive are on weekends or vacation days. There are stats available on average miles driven by day. I couldn't find them to post links here but I will do some more digging and post a link if I find it. If you adjusted your calcualation to take this into consideration, you'd likely still come up with a significant reduction in oil use.

Perhaps larger institutions could cope by distributing the days off of their employees throughout the week, with just 20% off on any weekday. Unfortunately, getting a day off mid-week would be far less attractive to employees compared to getting every Friday off; I think it would just be a lot harder "sell".

By having a "rolling" day off... Monday one week, Tuesday the next, etc... It should be a much easier sell.

Especially given that every 5 weeks everyone would get a 4 day weekend...

Those that guide our economy, manage our countries finances and are responsible for the safekeeping of our currency have beaten you to it. However, instead of reducing everyones workweek by 20% they have chosen to set us on a path to 20% unemployment.

Yes, oh yes. Finally.
I've posted several times that I'm usually working a 3x12 hr week. I've also worked a 4/40, but, I prefer the 12 hour one. I really had my doubts going into it, cuz I was worried about the physical aspects; on a busy shift, we'll do 8 miles, and I was worried about how I would feel after 3 shifts. Not a problem; I've actually done 5 or 6 in a row.

There are lots of ways to arrange schedules. Ours is semi-fixed cuz one of my partners is in school....3 on, 4 off. My favorite was 3 on, two off, 3 on, 6 off. A vacation without using vacation pay. I've got a friend who is now a traveling therapist in NM; she's working 6x12 and then an 8, followed by 7 days off.
2 less commutes a week for me, 40% less gas consumed. Pretty impossible for me to carpool, altho there are a few nurses living in town. Schedules are different,. departments start shifts at various times, whatever.
But I love the 12 hour shift.
Oh, and virtually no traffic, especially Sat and Sun nights. And grocery shopping at 6 AM is a breeze. Especially with my (shameless spam) new shopping bag
No, I don't own the company :>)
Bought one for mice elf, stared buying them for my kids and my mom. May give them away at X-mas. I'd rather have hemp, but these were right at the checkstand.
Go out and get shopping bags of your own.

Rat On da Night Shift

Regarding the shopping bag the only good thing the Irish goverment have done is put a 20 Cent TAX on plastic disposable shopping bags, no tax on reusable bags . It has cut the use of plastic disposable bags by the order of 90%. and they no longer litter everwhere. working 4X9 off ever other Fri Beats the hell out of 12 Hr nights.

No suits around on the night sift :>)

At some point, my eyes glazed - the 40 hour, 50 week American work schedule is already looking out of reach for many Americans, those working two or more jobs, or needing overtime to keep the minimum payments flowing to the ever growing debt they owe.

And instead of proposing something which would really change America, like 4-6 weeks vacation a year, we get the idea of working 10 hour days.

One of the more insightful things I have read on the Internet was that free time is the very definition of freedom. One of the more depressing things I continue to read on the Internet is Americans saying they have no idea what to do with free time, even as the amount available to them declined over a generation.

Or even more honestly - maybe reducing the need to commute at all would be a more worthy goal than how to do it more efficiently? And yes, that is a radical suggestion which many people seem to find unimaginably unrealistic.

Get rid of government sponsored retirement, and reduce taxes by an equivalent amount (is it 20? 30%?), and maybe the the rest of us won't need to work 2 jobs. Senile old people can still flip burgers. The problem is that we have decades of free time--but only if you're a woman over 60. Men over 60 have free time too, but we die quicker.

You make two assumptions that are unwarranted.

First, that people won't drive on their days off. Someone else already addressed that.

Second, you assume that companies won't hire more people to fill the week. Especially in manufacturing, where running 24x6 is pretty normal, moving to a 4 day week is just going to cause people to work more overtime, or cause the employer to hire part time or swing people to fill the gap. So, you won't reduce rush hour traffic or number of commuter-days, it will just be different people driving on different days.


Actual the article does address the idea of people driving around on their day off.

"And this is key, if a worker transitions to a 4 Day Work Week and then spends all day off driving around when he or she would have be at work, then the savings in terms of fuel and pollution will be lost. This is not a plan to provide everyone with more time to drive around but a plan to bring people back into their homes and their local communities. It’s an effort to give them more time with family, more time to exercise, more time to write the great American novel or learn to keep bees, or get another degree, or start a garden."

Also the article mentions an increase in productivity without additional workers.

"In 1930 famed cereal maker W.K. Kellog had this to say about his decision to decrease his companies work week from 40 to 30 hours.

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."

This is not a plan to provide everyone with more time to drive around but a plan to bring people back into their homes and their local communities. It’s an effort to give them more time with family, more time to exercise, more time to write the great American novel or learn to keep bees, or get another degree, or start a garden."

Yeah, but how do get people to actually do that?

We sometimes get unexpected days off (power emergencies and such), and the first thing people do is head for the mall to go shopping.

Some claim that's actually a good thing. Because if we go home and turn on our air conditioners, it can use more power that if we stay in the air conditioned office.

In 1930 productivity was limited by the worker's speed. In modern manufacturing productivity is limited by the speed of a machine driven process. If the machines could be sped up they already would have been.

Flex time is an Ok idea. 4-6 weeks vacation would be even better. And ponies for everyone.

and ponies for everyone

Actually, my European acquaintances generally get 4-6 weeks vacation, plus nearly twice as many holidays as here in the USA. So it is actually possible. It's largely by regulation imposed ultimately by the voters - the companies often don't want it that way.

Which only goes to show that it's ultimately down to consumer greed. For example, unions here in the USA (where they still exist) rarely ask for shorter hours - it's far more likely their members are looking for ways to hog yet more overtime. Apparently, most people here would rather have a bigger house and/or a bigger paunch, than more time with the family. They probably don't get along well with the family anyway.

Besides, even the most cursory look at a rural highway shows that many are too utterly stupid to think of anything to do in their spare time but to shoot holes in highway signs. There's no telling what damage that rubbish would do if they were given more spare time.

Besides, even the most cursory look at a rural highway shows that many are too utterly stupid to think of anything to do in their spare time but to shoot holes in highway signs. There's no telling what damage that rubbish would do if they were given more spare time.

Shooting signs is the rural equivalent of tagging with spray-paint in urban environments... Well, mostly. In any case, the issue, what you call "rubbish", is unsupervised youths. One could argue that if parents spent more time at home, they'd spend more time with their children, and tagging/sign-shooting wouldn't occur as much. I wouldn't necessarily make that argument.

I wouldn't make the argument too strongly either. In most such cases, the parents are as irresponsible and worthless as their offspring. They might spend added spare time on drinking, or shopping, or whatever else floats their boats, but never on their unsupervised youths.

I suspect carpooling would be more effective for reducing fuel consumption.

In the last fuel crunch, the logistics of carpooling were primitive, and it was basically done by employers, but now, with telecom, it could be done very, very easily. Wherever one is going, someone else is going there from your area, it's just a question of matching you up.

Carpooling, in theory, could reduce commuter fuel consumption by 80%. In an emergency, we could reduce fuel consumption quite dramatically in months.

Yes, but...
you could reduce it by 92-94% if you went to a 3 or 4 day week and carpooled.

Maybe a 2 day week will actually make fuel. Problem solved.

What I thought was interesting was that 7 out of 16 reasons were to reduce the negative consequences of driving a car to work.

Under a scenario of a four-day workweek, if I ride my bike to work, I get the advantages of not driving a car myself, plus the advantages of other people not driving their cars. I like it.

When I ride my bike to work, I have a longish ride. 18.5 miles each way (as the crow flies it would be a lot less, but the route wouldn't be terribly safe for a bicycle). The route that I do take is along a very pleasant MUP with a handful of crossings where I need to watch out for cars.

Right now I am only doing it one day a week while my body gets used to it (actually, I could probably do it every 4 days or so, so some weeks I could do 2 right now). Each time I make the ride, it seems to get just a little bit easier though. Doing the ride once a week has another advantage however - I can usually pick a day when the weather is nice. I am not much on riding in the rain, but I could do it if I had to.

We are at the time of year where I will need to go out and get some lights for my bike. It would be too restrictive to only ride during the daylight in the winter.

If anyone is looking for some good forums where anything cycling is discussed, try There are forums for commuting and winter cycling, among many others.

TVA has had flex time including 4 day weeks for YEARS for the main office people. (The plants are different; it doesn't work well there.) Hardly anyone works the 'regular' shift starting at 8 as working any other hours allows you to avoid the worst of the traffic. You have to chose an established shift starting at 7, 7:30, 8 or 8:30. Relatively few people work 4 10s; mainly those who have extremely long commutes. Most of them are more likely to spent that extra day working around the house than going anyplace.

Unforseen consequence:

"Hardly anyone works the 'regular' shift starting at 8 as working any other hours allows you to avoid the worst of the traffic."

Our roads are being used more efficiently - but by more vehicles. They can drive faster, but the resulting shorter commute times invariably allow people to live farther from work. This MUST have exactly the same effects on sprawl as building wider freeways: longer commutes, more gas usage, less ability to provide transit, and all the health, lifestyle, and socio-economic problems that go with car-dependent exurbs.

One caveat: if pop densities are more than high enough to support transit, and freeways are already heavily congested, time-shifting can make transit more effective. But where densities are not already high, time-shifting just reduces demand for transit and increases gas consumption.

14 Reasons This is A BAD Idea

1. 10 hours is a LONG day. Too long - productivity suffers.

2. What about Lunch? Most "8 hour" wage workers don't get compensated for lunch as it is. Those 10 hour days would be 10.5 or 11 hours - or are you thinking they should switch to part time?

3. Commutes won't get any shorter. So an hour-long commute means your 10.5 hour day is now 12.5 hours long. Are you high?

4. What about kids in daycare? 10+ hours at work leaves no time to raise kids. Small children should not be in day care more than 10 hours a day.

5. What about young school-age kids? Kids going to neighborhood schools near homes get dropped off or get on the bus before parents need to commute to work. That means the parent won't be back to pick up the child until after commuting back from work - 11+ hours later. We can't provide after-school activities for younger children that last until parents come home, and we shouldn't want to warehouse kids away from parents like that.

6. Older kids need supervision too. Lunch-included 10 hour days run 8-6pm. Are pre-teens they supposed to be out on the streets until 6:30 when mom gets home? Or maybe just home playing videogames and watching TV.

7. Research already shows teens should be starting school later than they do because of their natural circadian rythyms. 10 hour days for parents mean that teens will have to start earlier than they do now - or most teenagers will be left home alone until 7:30 or 8pm every night.

8. Will schools go to four days a week to compensate? What choice will we make: burning out the kids with a 25% increase in schoolwork per day, or cutting back on educational hours in the classroom by 20%?

9. What about parents? Sure, the obvious answer for two-parent families is to stagger working hours, in order to minimize the time young kids are in non-family supervision (one starts work late and drops off the kids, the other starts earlier to leave earlier and pick the kids up). But that SUCKS - you never see your spouse or have a family meal together. It's a recipe for increased divorce. Worse still, this is TERRIBLE for single parents who will never see their kids.

10. Are we breeding a race of mole-men? Will we ever see the sun between the fall and spring equinoxes?

11. Will you change overtime rules? Will all employees now be forced to work 10 hour shifts by their employers? What about employees who, due to physical conditions, are only just able to work 8 hour days now - will they go on disability and have to take a pay cut?

12. Three 8 hour shifts works because it's a very efficient use of capital. Two ten hour shifts will result in equipment laying idle for more time - with the result that either a whole shift will have to get fired, or employers will have to buy 50% more equipment.

13. Do we all take off the same day - i.e. Friday is a Bank Holiday and "regular" workers and students all stay home? It sounds like that's what your suggesting. But what about those who can't work the longer hours - the office isn't open on the weekend, is it?

14. Americans don't use all their paltry vacation and sick leave as it is. It's because they are paranoid that they will be seen as "expendable" or "lazy", and get fired. So they stay more than 8 hours a day routinely, and work on weekends. Now you want to make everybody stay 10 hours or more every work day? And when they "choose" come in on weekends, the "long" weeks are now 70 hours instead of 60?

Yes - for SOME people in SOME occupations in SOME industries, 4x10 is a great alternative. Like healthy, white collar, salaried employees, without children at home, who live less than 30 minutes from work, and who do not already feel pressured to put in "extra" time on weeknights and weekends.

But what about the other 90% of the country?

If your goal is to get people to drive less, address that problem with transit, gas taxes, and anti-sprawl measures. If you want people to work less, give them more mandatory paid vacation (I'd like 6 weeks!). If you want people to use less gas, push for fuel economy increases, gas taxes, and plug-in hybrids. If you want to change the working culture in America, start with stronger unions. Get protection from retaliation for workers who use their vacations, need family medical leave, or who choose not be browbeaten into abandoning their family.

If you want more people to work 4x10 hour days, just mandate that employers permit flex-time, unless the employer demonstrates that no reasonable accomodation can be made. But don't force it.

You know, I felt the original proposal had merit.

However, all your reasons listed are crushingly logical. It just shows how difficult it is to alter the compromise we already have.

Maybe you can find the flaws in this suggestion..

ALL jobs that are currently 9-5 are re-classified as X/Y/Z where

X is 8 - 4
Y is 9 - 5
Z is 10 to 6 All employers 'average' must be 9-5 ie
# X = # Z

The job advert gives the type. Changing type is a contractural change [ie not impossible, but semi-protected].
With 2 parents, 1 could work X, the other Z..etc

It wouldnt help much, but at least rush hour would spread over twice the time so less congestion?

Most people could spend 1 of the 5 days per week telecommuting. Most people in the U.S. are "knowledge" workers and could use the phones and Internet to do most of their work at least one day per week from an office in their homes.

If this would reduce imported oil 10%, clean up the air and reduce road congestion, I think it is certainly worth consideration. It is something that we can do NOW with present technology, rather than waiting years or decades for some miracle.

IBM is a big employer in my area, and they have jumped on the telecommuting bandwagon in a big way. Many of the employees never come into the office. There's no office for them to come into.

Which is why the company does it, of course. Saves them buying or renting office space, heating and air conditioning it, paying property taxes, plowing the snow off the parking lot in winter, cutting the grass is summer, etc. Let people work at home, using their own electricity.

The only problem is that if you can telecommute, someone in India can do your job for 1/10 the salary.

I think many would be willing to pay 9/10 more salary to a domestic telecommuter to insure good comprehension.

Telecommuting since 8/1 and loving it, and I'm going to look into beekeeping, too.

Can we afford a 25% cut in salary? Entropy tells us yes. We'll find out soon enough with the titanic US dollar.

A lot of the companies in my area are defense contractors, and security regulations would prohibit a lot of work from being done at home.

You have similar issues with banks and brokerage houses. With those organizations, they have an internal IT infrastructure that must never be connected to the internet. I don't know whether dialup is permitted or not - I would guess not.

We run across this kind of stuff when we try and give support to our customers in these types of locations.

There are already jobs that require workers to work longer hours fewer days per month, for example, nurses who work 12 hour shifts. Some points about this:

1. Perhaps these workers can be studied as a group to see what benefits/detractions such a work schedule results in.

2. Since there are already a number of workers doing this, or telecommuting, the savings would be less than calculated above, although not by much.

3. This should probably be done on a case-by-case basis. There are jobs for which this patently doesn't make sense, for example, construction. You need to spread out jobs that require intense physical labor over more days to prevent injury and burnout. Other jobs could be relegated to 1 or 2 days in the office and the rest of the days telecommuting. IT workers come to mind as a large workforce that probably should be given some kind of incentives to stay off the road and work from home.

if you are slashdot inclined, here's the link to the plus button in the title bar.

And if you are digg inclined, here's that link too:

Hmmmm... always like to hear "new" ideas, but overall I'd have to put this one down as mostly silly, I mean about trying to SAVE money/energy/pollution by working one less day a week.

As to to the "30 hour week", I'm sure most people would say "SURE, GREAT, just give me a 33% wage raise, and I'm ready to start." We ALL want more time, but the question is whether we can afford to work less, earn less.

Personally I think working less hours is a great idea for anyone who can afford to, and less money can work along with more time to do more for yourself, spend more time cooking, less time eating out, etc. AND less money means less corrupting "discretionary income" to throw away on trinkets and baubles we don't really need.

Anyway, I'm certainly not against flexibility for employees, and for jobs that support this, let's let people decide what's best for them.

On the commuting side, let's also expand options in transit so more people can get to work without cars - LRT, dedicated bus and bike lanes, congestion pricing, etc...

1) You're all a bunch of WIMPS!
Try about 6am-3am, 7 days a week, month after month: 140-150 hours/week, sleeping every other day.
(Okay, so I was 40+ years younger and stupider)

2) Better yet, more telecommuting.
As more and more folks have info/service jobs, it's much more feasible. And if 60% of the folks telecommuted, the other 40% would have a much easier commute. Of course, it implies trustworthy employees with integrity and managers who aren't control freaks and who know how to measure performance.

Just reading about the long hours worked by many of the
contributors to this thread is enough to make me feel tired.
No wonder the USA has such a high level of productivity.But
at what personal costs?.
When I was employed in the banking industry the hours were
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday with an hour for lunch each day, giving a 35 hour working week. Minimum holiday
entitlement was 4 weeks plus 8 public holiday days.
Whilst crawling (in more ways than one!) up the promotion
ladder there were times when I was working 12/13 hour days, but these periods were not the norm.
After reaching management level I was seldom working more
than 30 hours a week, and was in a position to supplement
my 6 weeks annual leave by awarding myself a days 'special
leave' each month, which with the 8 days public holidays
gave me a total of 10 weeks.
I received early retirement with an immediate unreduced
pension and fairly substantial cash payment at 52 years of
age. For the first time in my life I was fortunate enough
to be in the right place at the right moment.
My wife (2 years younger than me), was retired from the UK
Government Service one year later,on very favourable terms.
It's a hard life, but hey, someone has to do it.

"If work were such a good thing, the rich would have kept
more of it for themselves".

Okay, i think everyone here is really missing the point. when you have this mythical 4 day work week, you dont have 4 days working 10 hours, you just have a 32 hour work week, working 7-8 hours a day, except that since you spend less time in the office, and the result of the 3 day weekend would be feeling more refreshed and rested, less stressed and less crushed by work, the hours you *do* spend in the office or wherever you work are vastly more productive and you can do the same work in less time, or even more work in less time, for the same salary that you would be making for your 40 hour 5 day week. Get it?

I agree that its optimism to expect people to not use the extra day to go out and shop or drive or otherwise behave like consumers, but perhaps much of these habits are results of the amounts of stress and unhappiness they feel as a result of having jobs that take up fully 1/3 of their total lives and half of their waking hours. Maybe (and here's where i get to be the optimist) if they had more free time, felt better and less stressed, they would indulge less in comfort behavior like eating, shopping, or other consumerism, because after all consumerism in its extreme forms is the great american crutch. maybe we could have, even in a less than ideal world, less fat, unhappy, unhealthy people just by taking one weight off, leading the rest to fall away.

also, Kellogg reduced his workers' totals hours, he did NOT cram more hours into less days. and he found an upswing in positive returns. Honestly I'm appalled at how many people are defending their insane work hours, making it a status symbol to have the longer and crappier shifts, as if working yourself into drone states is something to be proud of. hard work is not just automatically better. so many people have been brainwashed into this manner of thinking. i agree that a 4 day work week could be the instigator of a large scale change in the nation's overall attitude. we need to relax again, to figure out why we ever liked relaxing in the first place, because we did at one time, you know, and its not like all the people who can afford not to work choose to simply because its so cool and awesome.

like mr toad said right above, if hard work was such an great thing the rich would have already kept it all for themselves.

4 days a week! - 4 hours a day?

"4 days a week - 4 hours a day!" is one of our oldest slogans in the Industrial Workers of the World. The idea was that most of the important work could be done in 4 hours over 4 days. Everything else was profit for the bosses.

However, I am guessing that you are not advocating for One Big Union. If you are supporting a move to four ten-hour days, I would not support that from my own personal experience. When I worked 2nd shift at a factory, I hated mandatory overtime. The first hour was sheer drudgery in a hot, metal "barn" of a factory where I worked. By hour four, I could no longer daydream my way through the work. By hour six, I HATED the radio. By the end of the eight hours I was praying that there wouldn't be any more work. And usually there was. I don't have many memories of that time since most of the down time was spent sleeping. My two, awful, long term experiences at the factories where I worked made me pro union and a radical. When people ask why workers would sabotage production or machinery, I ask if they have worked in a factory.

Regarding efficiency, during the depression, Kellogg (Yes, Tony the Tiger Kellogg) determined that if they shortened the day to five hours, maintained the pay and the work load, they got 8 hours of work done in 5 hours. This saved them large amounts of money in energy cost. And it worked well during the shortened days in the winter when they didn't have to spend as much on heating and lighting.

I will say that the 4 day work week as a way of saving energy is interesting idea. We should be having a big discussion on the role of work in regards to human life. However, we are talking about human beings, who are living biological creatures with natural rhythms and night day cycles, and who don't like be turned into zombies if they can't help it.


So does Kellogg still do that? And if not, why not?

Ooops. Made a small mistake. It was 6 hours day and that ended in 1985.

In 1930, Kellogg cut the work day in response to many issues. Kellogg was one of those old "capitalist socialists" like George Johnson of Endicott Johnson Shoe Company. "I will invest my money in people" was one of his statements.
One question was the relationship between work and one's life. A 6 hour work day allowed his workers to have more time to spend with family. His managers also found that people got the same amount of work done in 6 hours as they did in 8 hours. Furthermore, he could then hire laid off workers for a fourth shift, gaining their loyalty and productivity, and therefore got the equivalent of 32 hours of work in 24 hours. He also saved money in terms of energy by also having the management work 6 hour days. Since there weren't 4 shifts of management, he saved 2 hours a day in electricity costs and heating.

He was in controll of the company until the 1940 when two things happened. At that time, a new management took over that thought, we can save money by reverting to the 8 hour day and by cutting the fourth shift. Also, wartime ecomony encouraged a 48 hour week.

After the war, some departments fought for the 6 hour day. These were the departments that were primarily staffed by women.

Kellogg has a very, very interesting history and it has all sorts of interesting implications regarding efficiency of work.


Groovy Aaron - since we are heading for 40,000 to 50,000 visits today I thought I'd better read your piece. I got sucked in straight away - well written, thought provoking, radical, imaginative. Well done. I'll leave the many potential weaknesses in what you have written to others to dismantle. A couple of comments:

I ran my own business for 11 years. Few understand the responsibility that involves - finding the money to pay 12 staff, month in month out. I loved it, and have always felt I perform best under pressure. But one thing has surprised me since I sold up in 2001. Many, many friends have commented how well I now look. One may enjoy pressure but it takes its toll.

Norway, where I lived for 8 years has a low working hours week. The Norwegians work to live, not live to work. They are a pretty happy bunch - helped by many million boes per day of course.

One further factor you may want to consider is this. Many folks actually hate retirement. They work under slave conditions for 40 years and when the big day comes they are lost, have a heart attack and die. Most folks I believe may prefer to work 4 days a week for so long as they are alive. Enjoy your share of leisure time when you are young, instead of having 5 to 30 years of leisure forced upon you when you are old and decrepit and senile.

Being fairly lazy, I love the idea of working fewer days a week. I've got to seriously question the idea that oil import savings would be anywhere like the magnitude suggested in the post.

According to Rembrand Koppelar and the EIA, current oil imports to the US are 12.19 mbopd. These are 42 gallon barrels, and the physical volume of oil needed to make the gasoline remains the same without substantial added refining costs. We already import a lot in the finished product gasoline, as I recall about 5 million barrels a day from Europe and the Carribean but I don't recall where the figure is accessable.

The point is we aren't going to get rid of 2/3rds of our imports by cutting out 1/5th of our commuting trips. The math isn't even in the ballpark if an old English major like me can catch the flaws. Even 10% savings on the US total useage seems high, but call it 1 to 2 million barrels a day, because many jobs aren't amenable to this type of scheduling.

Others have pointed this out, but not driving to work is possibly going to add to the mileage rather than save gas as people decide to go to the beach with their extra day or take a trip.

Most of the benefits seem to accrue to a mythical living pattern that doesn't exist in the United States. Now over half the population is in single person households. Somewhere around 10% of the children that are born are born to a single woman, many of the mothers are very young and quite often living with their parents or grandparents. Adding significant increased childcare costs to an already overstressed situation doesn't seem very wise or kind.

Further, we have an aging population. Many people are past child bearing and arranging work for the benefit of the the small minority of suburban nuclear familes doesn't seem a very good idea.

This keypost also lacks a historical perspective. The 40 hour work week was a New Deal innovation. Before that most employees worked in a manner more similar to the current chinese factory workers-6 or 6 and a half days a week during daylight hours. The Democrats and organised labor got us 40 hours as much for job creation as any other reason and by creating a standard base of 1.5 times the regular pay after 40 hours worked in one the new deal labor laws increased benefits for the working people in the US.

Bob Ebersole

The reason over the course of industrialization that the work week has come down to a standard 40 hours is that the energy slaves took over part of the work load.

If the slaves disappear, then human labor will need to increase to compensate. Eventually toil from sun up to sun down will be the standard for at least six days a week just to survive.

This idea of a four day work week, even if the work week remains 40 hours would be at best a temporary measure. It assumes that into the future we still will have the type jobs we now have; this is unlikely. If the electric grid fails within the next several decades, as described by Richard Duncan, then even having a job to get to will be a rarity.

Sharon Astyk

"The reason over the course of industrialization that the work week has come down to a standard 40 hours is that the energy slaves took over part of the work load.

If the slaves disappear, then human labor will need to increase to compensate. Eventually toil from sun up to sun down will be the standard for at least six days a week just to survive."

Actually, it is definitively not true that human beings have had to work from sunup to sundown all the time to survive without fossil fuels, nor is it true that working hours have shortened because of fossil fuels.

Juliet Schor does an excellent job of demolishing both of these myths in _The Overworked American_. In fact, people work more now than at any time other than the bad old days of the early industrial revolution, which was a historical anomaly. Most peasant laborers in most societies documentably worked much shorter hours than we do at present to meet basic needs. The !Kung people, Medieval British serfs, the Ladakhis, and other indigenous cultures all over the workd offer examples of fairly high standards of living achieved with average workdays that are much shorter than our own. There were periods in which people worked intensively, but these were widely interspersed with holidays - British serfs, for example, were on Saints Days or Sabbaths for just under 1/2 the year.

More recently, Eric Brende, in _Better Off_ documents that peak labor among the Amish is considerably lower than average hours in most law firms - and in off seasons, work levels get considerably lower. Helena Norberg-Hodge documents that almost all the work in Ladakh was done in about 4 months of the year, and the rest of the time was spent partying.

In the same respect, fossil fuel powered tools have done almost nothing to reduce our labor - they have merely allowed us to do *more* labor - to make more things, have more stuff. But there has been no actual reduction in our hours - for example, during the period during which most major household appliances entered the domestic lexicon, work hours spent on housework actually went up slightly. Since the invention of the car, we spend almost twice as much getting to and from work.

The reality is that fossil fuels have only rarely reduced our workload - and that capitalism, and the economy it created has increased it vastly.

In this neck of the woods people who like to look busy while achieving little are known as blue-arsed flies . They are far too busy to question whether there is any point to their labours. On their extra day off instead of growing pumpkins they will probably mow the lawn then fertilise the lawn then water the lawn etc.

Like the carbon rationing proposal these people will fight it to the bitter end.

Well, just the thought of this is s very recent development---
Before the comidification of labor through the medium of time (a quite revolutionary concept), this would not even be a consideration.
Capital must get the best relation between user and exchange value--
That is always achieved through the comidification of labor (and obviously one cannot get something for nothing-someone loses- in this case all profit is through exploitation of labor).

Hey, I like this post, good out-of-the-box thinking; we should question everything. Personally, I like the concept of a 4-day workweek if only because the 5-day week has become part of the unquestioned Way Things Are. But since I'm NOT working at the moment I'll post my top-of-the-head answers:

Reason #1; the impact a 4 day work week could have on crude oil imports. I’m talking about perhaps a 40% reduction in the amount of oil we need Monday through Friday simply by rearranging our work week.

OK, admittedly I skimmed the math preceding this point, but off the top, how do you get a 40% reduction in energy use from a 20% decrease in commuting? This is admittedly nitpicky and I apologize for it. Then of course there's the question of how much energy the average person burns on their day off, but that has been covered by other posters, as have most other good points. Actually, be this as it may, I expect that there would be greater efficiency gains in the amount of energy used if such a 4-day week was intensively staggered in terms of days and hours, so that there is no gridlock - which is to say, reduce the peak traffic by 20% and you might save a lot more fuel by cars staying at speed instead of crawling. That's where a Prius makes up its big energy saving.

Continuing to ramble, I'll bet the hypothetical average worker in the USA already works a 4-day week, if you include the unemployed who aren't counted as unemployed because their benefits have lapsed.

Of course, a 3.5-day week might make more sense in the real world, because most folks will need two jobs, what with the dollar crashing and all.

I have to say that reading this, I am reminded of Jay Hanson's "Society of Sloth", which he has previously proposed as one of the only ways to avoid massive human dieoff. His point is that most of what we in the 'developed' world do is entirely useless. Under that view, I think our present "service economy" is more about a mechanism to distribute the largesse of our 'energy slaves' than about actually doing necessary stuff. And you know, it's true - most of what is done in the USA doesn't need to be done. Period. Advertising executives are in no way more useful to the world than crack addicts, and they have a larger negative impact on the planet.

The work ethic, as it exists today, is in many ways destructive. We feel condescention for those who aren't working. A good case could be made that a minority fraction of the population can do all the necessary stuff, and the others should write poetry, smoke reefer, surf, post to internet blogs or do other harmless stuff. Right there you'll have the benefits of more family togetherness, hugely reduced energy cost, lowered environmental impact, higher quality of life. I'm not holding my breath for this to happen, makes too much sense. Still, it's relevant to the topic.

I'm aware of the irony of my taking this position. I worked 18/7 for over 20 years nonstop with only occasional collapses for hospitalization. No joke, and paying for it now.

Of course, we're heading for a time in which many people will need to spend all their time attempting to survive. The entire debate about hours worked presupposes that energy slaves are cheap and food & water are readily available. We may relatively soon find that we can't even get survival done with everyone working at it constantly.... that's what a dieoff will be like in many places. (the other places may favor disease and killoff).

But we're not there yet. I have to say that I enjoyed the "summers off" policy of teaching school, back in the years I did that. The time off was as civilized as the work load 'on' was uncivilized, though that turned out to be my easiest job of the last 30 years - still 12 hours a day, but 2 months off! wow.

I'll confess too that I used to have a lot of employees, and it was a drag. In retrospect, they didn't really increase my personal productivity (or that of the organization), they reduced it. I bought into the silly paradigm and wasted the better part of a decade seeing to their needs before re-examining the basic assumptions, just because other humans expected me to. I ultimately wrote them all great letters of reference and made sure they got good jobs elsewhere, and man! was it liberating to not have them around anymore. The earth would have been better off by far if they had all been at home watching TV and shooting heroin rather than working in air-conditioned offices. So needy, so self-involved, yet you get fond of 'em and before you know it you're like a crazy cat lady spending all your time cleaning up after 'em and feeding 'em. Humans, eh.

Anyhow, let's de-stigmatize sloth until the oil becomes unavailable, and then people will pretty much have to either work fulltime or own slaves to do it for them....


I haven't seen anyone address the millions of people who do not work a traditional "9-5" job. Much of the work force is (for many different reasons) working harder and longer hours SPECIFICALLY when the "9-5'ers" are NOT working. Wouldn't a 4 day work week cause the exact opposite positive effects for them, i.e. more of them working, longer hours, just as frequent commutes, etc. I love the idea of a 4 day work-week. I have done it, working 4x12's and taking 3 days off a week. Different time then now, and my dedication to my chosen profession (NOT a pro speller BTW)has become a larger part of my life, but let's not forget the guy who works at 7-11, or the mom who works at McD's. If the lions share of the work force has more time off, these people will work longer and harder to provide service for those who are not working. Sounds like Labor Day all over again. Look at my site for my Labor Day entry. Not trying to piss anyone off, but the idea bears mentioning. While we're on the subject, I work a 40 hour week right now at odd hours. I have a new position starting soon which will require me to work 50 hours a week. For the first 3-5 months in this position, I do not see anyway I can take time off which will increase my weekly hours into the neighborhood of 65-80 hours a week. The pay is great, benefits not negotiated yet, and I can't wait to start. Enjoying one's work could and should be a factor in this. Some people are lucky enough to have a hobby that turns into a career.

I welcome comments.


Good points. See my list of 14 reasons above for more problems. The idea is good for a stereotypical healthy salaried white collar worker with no kids. For everyone else (i.e., most Americans), it's a huge problem.

Our nursery works 5 days a week in the busy season and 4-10 hrs days the rest of the year. The crew loves it and can't wait to get back on to 4 day weeks after spring. 3 days off is the biggest benefit to them, although they do like 4 commutes instead of 5. So 20 % reduction in commuting expense. Where do you get such a nice return, every week you do it.
As the owner I like it too. I get more done when not being interrupted with all the necessary interruptions that go on in the course of having employees here.
Such a simple fix - doesn't involve subsidies to some PAC group so will only be used in desperation as a gov policy.
Are we smarter than yeast?

Thanks for the post! Is not the point with this peak oil phenomena that the world must work together to control the economic effects? Is there then any use for economic terms such as productivity since there is less competition between nations? We could maintain the economy by just slowing it down globally? After all we produce much that is not necessary. Maybe someone have the numbers?

Your oil savings are way overstated.

Even if you assume that you use no oil products during your extra day off (a stretch as others have commented), and using your figure for gallons, the saving per week (since you only reduce one commute per week) using a 42 gallon barrel is less than 4 million, or a little more than 0.5 million barrels per day.