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?

This piece was originally posted September 20, 2007, for the old comments revisit the old thread.

Four Day Work Week? You will not get any arguments from me on that, all the points here look valid. Let's do it! Cheers.

At first blush, many of these arguments seem to make sense. But a few are dubious, to say the least. Ten good arguments for a case are better than ten good ones plus six bad ones. Even one good argument would be sufficient, if it were to outweigh all the others.

Reasons # 1 thru # 9 – sound fine (at first blush).

Reason # 10 ("The 4 Day Work Week would increase productivity")
Questionable. Can we conclude from this that a 3 Day Work Week would increase productivity even more, and a 2 Day Work Week even still more .. down to a 0-Day Work Week where productivity reaches its maximum?

No doubt there is a productivity optimum, depending on the type of job and the personality of the employee. Perhaps it's four days for some occupations, five for others, etc. But no, this reason doesn't hold much water.

Reason #11 ("The 4 Day Work Week would give us more time for family").
Questionable. More time with the family can have mixed results: think of cabin fever. Or remember Schopenhauer's 'hedgehog's dilemma' – hedgehogs cuddle together to stay warm but then they move apart to avoid pricking one another with their quills. Ditto for hom. sap.
No doubt a lot of families stay together because Dad is away five days of the week. Like holidays – there are holidays with the family and there are holidays from the family. I'm an old-fashioned family guy myself. Believe me.

More later --- just heard Madame Carola Obscura coming in the door. Gotta get away ....

Reason # 10 ("The 4 Day Work Week would increase productivity")

Questionable. Can we conclude from this that a 3 Day Work Week would increase productivity even more, and a 2 Day Work Week even still more .. down to a 0-Day Work Week where productivity reaches its maximum?

Does the logical reductio ad absurdem still work given that the argument is an empirical one rather than a logical one?

Probably not. The argument is not that for any work week, reducing the work week increases productivity, but that for a 5 day on, two day off, eight hour a day work week, reducing the work week increases productivity.

Indeed, the flaw is not the one set forward here, but that the empirical support is for productivity falling from the sixth hour working to the eighth hour working ... but for the impact on commuting, the change in the work week is not focused on reducing the length of the work day, but in reducing the number of commutes per week.

Clearly, the suggested 4-day, 10-hour day would not have any strong support from the evidence sketched at in the piece for any general substantial productivity benefit. And a 5 day, 6 hour day would not reduce the total number of commutes.

Also, the piece reads as if everyone works at a desk job. For a lot of people who work at an hourly wage, there is something to be done or else they are not on the clock, which means that if the number of hours they work in a day is reduced, then the firm has to have more people on the payroll.

Does the logical reductio ad absurdem still work given that the argument is an empirical one rather than a logical one?

Point taken – thanks. In fact, after that somewhat clumsy attempt at sarcasm I made much the same empirical argument as you did: it all depends. As you point out, we're not all paper pushers or penmen.

As regards the increased productivity argument I would add the ECON 101 dimension: if the 4-day workweek were as productive as it's made out to be successful firms would have introduced it already and the fuddy-duddies would have gone to the wall. Natural selection Schumpeter Hayek Ludwig von Mises and the American question: if you're so smart why aren't you rich ... etc. etc.

As regards the increased productivity argument I would add the ECON 101 dimension: if the 4-day workweek were as productive as it's made out to be successful firms would have introduced it already and the fuddy-duddies would have gone to the wall.

Having taught ECON-101, I'll also point out that (1) this argument assumes a complete network of perfectly competitive markets which (2) is nothing like what we have.

Firms are not productivity optimizers even in the traditional marginalist theory, they are profit optimizers, and there are many reasons why there can be productivity increases that are not reflected in increased profit for labor hour. Indeed, the massive departures we have to make from the real world in order to arrive at a model in which profit optimizing and productivity optimizing are equivalent should themselves signal that in general, they are anything but equivalent out in the real world.

Thanks for making the point (ECON 301?)

Second bash:

As regards the increased productivity argument I would add the ECON 301 dimension: if the 4-day workweek were as productive as it's made out to be successful firms might under certain circumstances have introduced it already and the fuddy-duddies might in some cases have gone to the wall and you can read all about the nitty-gritty in Samuelson's Economics 125th edition.

Is that OK now>? :-)

I've been mostly on a 3x12 hr shift for 10 years. I don't know whether my productivity has changed, but my gas bill is 40% less than it would be with 8 hr shifts. Is it more productive for the department? My first hospital went from 8 hr to 10 hr shifts in order to get improved staffing without hiring new employees. We had about 4 different shifts, with overlapping coverage. I believe the same thing happened when my current department went to twelves, so I'd have to say our productivity went up. Mostly, tho, productivity depends on the patient load.

Hours too long mentally? I'm probably thinking and functioning better in emergencies after 11 hours than I am when I walk in the door.
Hours too long physically? I'm 63, retiring in 6 months, and trying to pick up OT. Worked 112 hrs the last 2 weeks, without killing any patients, mice elf, or anything on the drive home. Just takes a good pair of legs; do about 6 miles in a shift.


Not a new idea. When my mom was in nursing school, ca 1940, they worked 5x12 plus half a shift on Sat.

Great idea. However, the big question mark is: do people really drive less on their day off?

That's the thing, if they just drive somewhere else on Friday (or whenever the extra day off is), then the energy savings pretty much evaporate. At my employer we do have our Public Works guys on a 4 day, 10/hr per day schedule. They all love it. Why? Because that gives them an extra day to go hunt or fish -- activities they must drive some distance to. I might also point out that all those people with an extra day off are going to want to go shopping or to some entertainment venue, so the people staffing THOSE places can't have that day off.

I'm pretty sure employers would be able to work their schedules so that there was coverage on all days. This excellent suggestion didn't say that it is mandatory for every person in the country to take Friday off.

Personally, I would rather have Monday off. Nothing better than coming to work on Tuesday and thinking 'wow, part of the week is gone already'.

As far as what people might do on their 3rd day off is not really an issue, considering all the other mentioned benefits of a 4 day work week. Of course it would have to be 4 10 hour days. There is no way this would happen if the number of work hours in a week were reduced.

I agree this is a big question and calls the 40% reduction in reason #1 in to question. First of all if I commute 4 days instead of five that's a 20% reduction, and if I drive for personal reasons on the extra day off then I don't even get the full 20% benefit.

that number's fixed. I missed it in my edit last night. Apologies.

In Los Angeles, smog is usually worst on Saturdays. This could be strong evidence that a 4-day work week would not provide the benefits suggested in this article.

Rampant speculation and riling ahead:
(note: this is not directed at anyone specifically)

Perhaps these people who've been cooped up all week feel the need to get out and go somewhere on Saturday. If the workweek were reduced they may not feel the need to do so. So not only would you get the benefit of them not driving the one day of the workweek, but they may not feel as compelled to go anywhere else otherwise, so you'd get a reduction on Saturdays as well.

More likely, whatever driving they would be doing on Saturday may get simply get shifted. So the workweek benefit may still be there, but they may simply do their Saturday driving on a different day.

Here's stirring the pot: I'd say that fuel burned during recreation is a worthy use. Fuel burned during commuting is completely wasted. I'll make a side note that fuel used in creating the items we need for survival - food, shelter, clothing, etc. is also a worthy use. I'll go even further to say that even if they drive on the "off" day, that is a much better use of the resource. For the reason, I'll answer with a question...what's the purpose/meaning of life? I'll let you decide.

Now, to be a little less controversial, one of the things this WOULD to make a *mandatory* driving day into an *optional* driving day. If you must drive to get to work and you work 5 days a week, you need to drive 5 days a week - though you could drive 7. If you've got a 4 day workweek, you need only drive 4 days a week - though you could still drive 7. The other day becomes optional. So if gas is $10/gal - perhaps on that 5th day that you would have *had* to drive to work, you'll hop on your bicycle and cruise downtown instead (or sit on your fat, lazy ass and ogle the one-eyed god...but that's another story).

In 2006 (I think it was) fuel use for transport by private persons for leisure overtook fuel use for work-related / commuting purposes, in Geneva, Switzerland. (Shopping was split, a bit of it was counted as ‘essential’ driving. ifirc..) That is what you get with great public transport for a small territory, in a rich country. Leisure spots are of course off the public transport grid, either because they involve ‘country’ or because they are set in locations where the land/rents are cheap - off the grid!

Heigh ho, heigh its off to to the mall (park, ski, spa...and in the winter, sunlight..) we go!

Working days (hours) are amongst the highest in Europe. Saturday is still an official working day - employers simply offer it as ‘non-working,’ fact which most employees don’t realize until they are called in to work on Sat. which admittedly only happens for some professions and in some exceptional situations.

I have given this some thought. I think that what we should do is have a 4 day forty hour work week with a mandatory no driving day--for anyone short of emergency services (or alternatively drivers could buy a prohibitively pricey driving pass for the day off though I don't like that idea too much). Let's make it something similar to the Jewish Sabbath say Friday at midnight to Saturday at midnight with Monday off. Its not like people wouldn't be able to do things on this day, it just means they would have to do it without their automobiles. Some people could still work if they wanted or needed too. They would just have to ride a bicylce or walk--with the added bonus that the roads would be much safer on those day. I can only imagine what it would do for this obese country. I know that people would complain, but driving is a privlige and not a right and a mandatory no driving day would undoubtedly curb demand and we could still get the same amount of work done in a week. Maybe it could even be done at the federal level if the government threatened to withold highway funding. Heck, if we just had a mandatory no driving day on the weekend we could still have a 5 day work week. We could even make it Sunday. I am only 26 and still remember how everything used to be shut on Sudays when I was a kid.

I second that JD , as a hard working chef.
But on more important matters...

I think the old comments are still accurate, especially this one.

If this is actually advocating fewer hours worked...I think that will just accelerate outsourcing to countries where people will work 12 hour days, six days a week, for much less pay.

And the math critiques posted in the previous thread's comment do not appear to have been addressed.

We could make outsourcing illegal.

Hmmmm ... like making outsourcing crude oil illegal? ... careful what you wish for!

more like 14 hour days 7 days a week. I've been to China and if I remember correctly you have too, those folks are ready to work.

(disclaimer: didn't read the whole thing)

I find it funny this guy works with Sharon, a small scale farmer. Wasn't it some sort of Godly mandate to take a day off, get us out of the fields?

I guess it comes down to the definition of work.

Its not as if outsourcing is some kind of natural law reaction to changes in the physical environment ... its a policy choice made by governments, both public and private.

"If this is actually advocating fewer hours worked...I think that will just accelerate outsourcing to countries where people will work 12 hour days, six days a week, for much less pay."

Nah, not at all. Outsourcing happened with the 5 day 40 hr wk in place to begin with. This whole argument is vacant. I've worked 4-10s & 4-12s. It's just cool to have 3 sanctioned days off. Did it change MY life in any significant way? Nope. The wife worked 35 hrs, I worked 48. Now she works 48 and I work 0. And I have to pay child support. Like anything, it is what it is. A system with a life of its own, and good or bad, it seems to be self-sustaining.

I don't think the scheduling life around the kids thing is relevant either. I and my kids found a way to adjust when I worked 4-10s. It wasn't a deal breaker. I've lost employment to outsourcing. No one gave a crap about what it would do to my kids or me or my families existing in any comfort. It's not an all or nothing scenario.

Outsourcing will become a thing of the past anyway. Our wages go down, the Asians come up a little, we all make the same wage, and outsourcing becomes futile. PO will bring about a more localized arrangement for the way we conduct our affairs. It'll be easier and make more economic sense, but I digress.

IMO, a move to 4-10s would have no effect on anything, productivity, home life, carbon emissions,...


As long as the overhead for hiring new employees is high, companies will prefer overtime (on top of a 40 hour work week)
rather than hiring more staff.

Also, if real pay is declining, workers will likely work longer to attempt to maintain their standard of living.

Add on top of this the effective elimination of overtime penalties ... for wage labor, this originally involved fringe benefits for full time hourly employees, so that if full time hourly employees get 1/3 of their total renumeration in benefits, then time and a half is the same hourly labor cost.

This was extended, starting in the 1980's and accelerating for the US at least, with heavy pushes to reliance on temporary labor, so that instead of allowing one employee to get overtime, a second person is called in. Of course, this only works if there is a shortage of regular full-time employment, but since the economic policy shift of the mid-1970's away from fighting unemployment to ensuring an adequate amount of unemployment, that has not been hard to arrange ... in the US, again, U6 unemployment in the most recent expansion, which is now over (in employment terms) never dipped below 7.5%.

Another issue:

As we increasingly move to a solar-powered economy, we are going to have to re-engineer everything around the realities of the daily solar cycle. Whether sunlight is being used for interior lighting, or space & water heating, or electricity, or industrial CSP applications, most work is going to have to be done during those six hours or so centered on solar noon. This suggests to me that maybe a six hour per day, six day per week schedule is what we're really going to have to go to at least for most industrial and commercial operations. The good thing abouot that is that it would leave plenty of time each day for home gardening (which is better done at the start and end of each day anyway), chopping wood, crafts, or other sideline employments. It would require that people live pretty close to their employers, though - preferably within walking or bicycle distance.

I thought with cell phones, blackberries, laptops, etc. that people were pretty much working 24/7 anyway, regardless of whether they were at their physical place of employment. The real problem is that Americans, generally, are overworked compared to, for example, the Europeans. In addition, there are no laws requiring vacations so we have very short vacations.

Yes, it is true that if we don't work ourselves to death, then our jobs will be outsourced, which is happening anyway.

The fundamental problem is that we are in a global, largely free trade economy that will only continue to lower the living standards of most working Americans. We don't even truly have a five day/40 hour work week, so I see it as extremely unlikely that we will move to a 4 day work week.

As long as we are wedded to free trade nirvana, the life of the typical American worker will be nasty, brutish, and short. We seem to be perfectly happy with the current situation where the rich are getting much richer and the middle and lower classes are getting poorer. There is no politician with any chance of being President who will change that fundamental reality.

Further, as long as most of us "need" all the toys available in our consumer society, they will not make any changes which will lower their incomes. This is built into our DNA because of decades of consumerist propoganda starting in the early 1900s.

Further, as someone else stated above, more days off may actually increase miles traveled. I live in an area where "pleasure" driving rules.

Tstreet: Not fair-you are going against the common theme on TOD that the USA is potentially Sweden. "We" will all work together singing Kumbaya. Doesn't anyone remember Bush's comment that the great thing about America is that the shmucks work THREE jobs? Oil depletion is going to kick the average American in the head-this is about as important to the persons running the country as the future of the average Haitian IMO.

I'm back.

Reason #14 The 4 Day Work Week would mean a reduction in the cost of childcare
Questionable –it's a question of relative costs: a high-flying manager won't stay at home on Friday just to save $50 on the babysitter. A 0-Day Work Week would reduce childcare costs to zero, of course.

Reason #16 The 4 Day Work Week feels great!
Purely subjective – speak for yourself. I actually enjoy my five-day workweek – meet colleagues at the proverbial water-cooler, listen to Katie Melua CDs as I drive to the office and back, eat great meals at a high-quality canteen where you can choose what you want and don't have to deliberate at length with your vegetarian wife and carnivore sons ...

Phew! As they say, there's no place like work. In fact, I'd go for six days any time.

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Good luck. One trouble is that despite its length, this is a static analysis.

I suspect that if people saw a four-day week as a lasting change, then their habits would change over time, and not in the direction of reducing fuel consumption. For example, the everlasting 24/7/365 school-sports hypercompetition would inexorably rise to a new level, with yet more routine driving halfway across the state to get young Johnny and Susie closer to the world-class level of play they so obviously deserve.

Seriously, people tend to respond to a block of free time by taking a trip; they can't think of anything else to do. Consider the Garden State Parking Lot, or Interstates 90 and 94 out of Chicago, or all the other jammed Interstates outbound from big cities the Friday night and Saturday morning of a nice weekend, or returning the last evening of said weekend. (Oh, and should you read this and feel inclined to put up yet another Blame America First post, consider the Autoroute du Soleil on any nice weekend, ground nearly to a halt all the way from Paris to Marseille.)

In addition, I doubt that one gets to reduce peak commuter traffic by divvying up the five days evenly. Many shops or groups will function less well if a different one-fifth of their people are out each day of the week. So a day will be chosen. Because people use free time to travel, Monday and Friday will be much preferred over Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Unless Mondays or Fridays are chosen, the irate bickering over this matter will cause administrators to throw up their hands and move on to The Next Big Thing. And people are social creatures who want to be off when others are off, so the day would tend gradually to standardize. (A shop could also rotate the day, but that is unlikely as it would confuse clients and customers - let's see, it's March, so my agent has today, Tuesday, off, no that was back in January, oh, fuhgeddaboudit, I need to move my business to another agency.)

If the real agenda was to reduce working hours for the aesthetic sake of a so-called simpler life or whatever, that would have to be accomplished in a more direct manner (and probably by fairly harsh command-and-control, given the experience with and ruckus over limiting working hours in France.) Meanwhile, on to the next idea.

(By the way, this subject was also just touched on by Tim Haab.)


Cleary you're a pro. Yes, a lot of the four-day-workweek arguments belong to the category it sounded like a good idea at the time. Like bioethanol, etc.

Many people would probably go bananas if they had three free days a week --- especially in an irreligious age when work is the main source of meaning for many people.

Blaise Pascal wrote:

I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man's being unable to sit still in a room.

Two days in a room (i.e. home) each week is more than enough for most of us. No, no thanks, will Sunday never end?

Good Lord... Have you ever considered taking up a hobby?

A hobby. Wot's that?

Reading Pascal, perhaps?

Perhaps Huxley?

To reduce energy usage, we could just go to a two-shift system. Manufacturers have known for a long time that running a factory on just one shift a day is a big waste. Why should office jobs be any different.

I'm at work for about 10 hours a day. That means my cube is sitting empty (so is the parking lot) for 14 hours a day. Wouldn't it make more sense to have another guy working there for that amount of time? If we started moving this direction, we wouldn't have to build another office building for decades.

It is really funny to read this post. Just this week, I negotiated with my boss to have Fridays off. I argued that a) otherwise I would quit, and b) I would be more productive on the other work days. She agreed. The result is that I gave up a potential promotion I didn't really want in exchange for more freedom in my life. I'm at home today on my first Friday off, reading this post.

Since last fall, I've been working as sort of an apprentice on a local farm outside of town. The Saturday farmer's market starts up in May, so the main reason I wanted Fridays off was so that I could work on the farm on Fridays to harvest and prepare for the market.

Not going to work one day won't save gasoline or emissions because I biked to work anyway (and I bike to the farm). However, I do feel that it's a step toward a life designed by me rather than one designed by my employer.

Obviously, this doesn't work for everyone. It's just my personal journey. But it feels great.

My office is considering offering flex time, not for employees' convenience or to save gas, but to reduce carbon emissions. Not many people want 4-day work weeks (the days are too long, and it's tough if you have kids). But many are going for 9 days every two weeks.

IME, this might be more common in the future. There's increasing pressure on large organizations to reduce their carbon emissions, and offering flex time is easier than trying to force your employees to carpool. Also, with the economy turning sour, flex time is a way to reward your employees that doesn't cost anything.

Im working on telecommuting one day a week. I live 22 miles from work and drive a 30mpg car. That 44 mile round trip (and the hour I spend in the car to do it) is something I'd like to avoid.

In my case then Id work the same 5 day week, but avoid 1/5th of my commute expenses. I can choose which day to stay home (so it wouldnt always be Friday).

The idea that those staying home might burn the same fuel going fishing seems a little "static" to me. With gas at $4/gallon or more I know I for one am going to be doing a lot more walking and cycling, and a lot less casual driving.

This should be compared with 10 years ago when young people would go "cruising" just to pass the time.

Four day weeks, and 35 hour weeks are already used elsewhere. B.C. government employees have had a 9-day pay period; they get one extra day off every two weeks. If there is a long weekend, they can take the extra day and have four in a row. Resource workers in the north who stay in camps almost never work a 5-day week.

IMO, the pressure for American employers to keep as few employees as possible and work them overtime is due to the private benefits structure in the U.S. An employee's health, dental, and extended care costs are huge, and born by the employer. This isn't fair. Preventitive health costs paid by an employer benefit the employee for years after he/she leaves the company (to work for the competition), and the result is a system where the employer and insurance companies over-promise (ie.. sell) benefits while not actually delivering when there is a claim.

A social healthcare system makes flexible work hours viable, because employers will not be afraid to hire more people.

Excellent point. Working people to the bone with lots of overtimes, paid or unpaid, makes a lot of sense when you have the burden of heavy fixed costs. Further, there is the practice of hiring "temporary" workers who do not get health care. These people get to work less hours but give up benefits. On the other hand, providing health benefits provides a tool whereby employees are more afraid to lose a job because they will lost their benefits, thus giving the employer more bargaining power.

"B.C. government employees have had a 9-day pay period" Guess that's why BC's taxes are so high?

"A social healthcare system makes flexible work hours viable" Make sure our US friends understand what a government run health care system means. 48% of the Ontario budget is for healthcare. Some $45 BILLION each year. That means almost half of the Ontario portion of your income taxes is for healthcare of some $3,000 per year, on top of that they have a $900 per per person per year for the new "health care levy", just another tax. Healthcare costs for the province increases more than 10% per year, thus it won't be too long before the budget will be swamped due to heathcare costs.

For the US to implement a government run healthcare system their taxes would have to increase by some $4,000-5,000 each year. There is no such thing as free healthcare.

You are confusing single-payer government coordinated insurance with expensive services and public-sector hospitals. The delivery can be public, private, or a combination. The inefficiency and skewed incentives come from having multiple private insurers competing to maximize their own profits, who are not accountable for (and don't profit from) the overall welfare. They put Viagra commercials on prime-time television, while people are trying to work with toothaches!

I agree that there is no such thing as free health care, and I am in favor of private delivery, especially for specialized services like MRI and radiotherapy. I also think that long-term and respite care belong in the private sector. There are lots of things that the Canadian health care system can learn from the U.S. Private insurance isn't one of them.

The 3Ps as it is called here "Public Private Partnerships" is contrary to the Canada Health Act. Though that has not stopped Provinces from trying it regardless. The left wing parties are very much against such things and want the system 100% public funded, no compromise.

But 3P does exist here to some extent. And the reason is clear, funding healthcare is damned expensive. And going to get a lot more expensive as the population ages and more immigrants are pumped into Canada by the hundreds of thousands.

Great idea, and you should phase it to 3 days in 2 years, and the to 2 days 2 years after that. This will give people less money to spend, and they would consume less fossil fuels for everything, not just gasoline. If most understood Peak Oil and the myths about alternatives, this plan would have a chance. But there is that big IF. Many people, politicians, and "experts" labor under ignorance and illusions about solar power, wind, oilgae, wind turbines, and gas power from poopies.

And spend the other 4 to 5 days a week tending their gardens 'cause they won't be able to afford food, if they are lucky enough to keep their homes.

Mortgage payments will have to be stretched out a little, like from 15 years to 45 years, and bankers won't be able to waste as much fuel on yachts, trips to Bermuda, etc. People won't be spending money on some foods, like gourmet ice cream, sugary cereals, 2 inch thick steaks, and the like. It will be tough sledding for Americans, but hey, for much of the world it's just another day.

"like from 15 years to 45 years" Actually that will give banks even more profit. Interest payments on mortgages are more for longer term mortgages. At 20 years you pay about double the principle in interest payments, for 50 years it would be near 5 times. There would be no light at the end of the tunnel, ask those in Japan where children inherit their parent's 50+ year mortgages.

It depends on how the inflation outlook, the housing outlook, and alternative investments are looking - long after you can predict such things. A $22,000 home bought in 1958 which is now worth $500,000, and has given 50 solid years of inhabitation, may be worth paying $110k over that time period. On the other hand, a $20,000 investment made in 1958 may have paid rent and appreciated for 50 years into a multimillion-dollar nest egg. I'm not saying it's a sure-shot either way, but that it's not so simple as 'mortgages bad' or 'mortgages good.' While banks are obviously going to try and avoid losing money on any deal, housing is not something you can buy and sit back for fifty years while it appreciates, empty.

In my entire working life I never had the mythical 9 to 5 Monday through Friday job. In my bus driving days I worked 11 days of every two week pay period. I also worked in a hospital where services were provided 24/7/365.24. Grand Rapids, MI had 3 GM factories back in the 1970s and 3 full service hospitals. The hospitals had more employees than GM did. The area's largest employer was and probably still is a supermarket chain that never closes. Bringing back in some form the Sunday blue laws which prohibited most retail business from operating on the Sabbath would probably save more fuel than a 4-day work week.

The problem for this would be shift workers where the company works 3 shifts per day. Hard to do with 10 hour shifts, they would have to be 2x12 hours shifts, but labour laws in Ontario, for example, require sleep time and beds for all employees who work 12 or more hours in a row. The Toronto Fire department went from 10 hour day/14 hour night (which they had been doing since 1950's) shifts, to 24 hour shifts. Some like it, but most hate it. Appearently "sick" time has skyrocketed.

If not 10 hours per day, how many people are willing to take a 1/5 wage cut? There is no way industry is going to pay you for a day you do not work.

Less driving? Not a chance. Jevons Paradox. It might actually increase driving. With more 3 days weekends there's more incentive to take 3 day trips driving longer distances.

This idea has been batted around for decades. There was even a suggestion 20 years ago or so in Ontario that workers "share" their jobs with those who cannot find work. You work 3 days and your "partner" works the other 3 days. The caveat being that there would not be a reduction in pay!! Business threw that idea in the trash, dah!

Might sound nice, but there are so many different jobs, so many combinations and permutations of jobs out there that very few people would be able to take up the idea. If anything telecommuting is better where it can be done, but that is few people too.

(without reading the comments from 2007)

Reasons this won't work:

#1 - Middle management dislikes it, as they tend to like to see people in their cubes even if productivity is lower.

#2 - 10 hours days are not for everyone.
#2a - They have family obligations that require them to meet the kids after school.
#2b - The thought of a 7-5, 8-6 workday doesn't appeal to them. Not everyone can be productive for 10 hour stretches.

There are others, but I'd rather focus on the positive.
Providing flexible working conidtions is important. Not everyone wants to come in for a 9-5 job.

Some would rather do nine 8hr days and have an extra day off every other week. Some would rather do four 10hr days and have an extra day off each week. Others would rather keep to the "standard" five 8hr day.

If the goal is to reduce congestion & energy use, flexible starting times for large employers, encouraging telework, carpooling, transit, and bike/walk trips to work are likely as, if not more, effective than just a 10 hour day.

The 4-day 32 hour workweek is a great idea. It's true that 5/40 is arbitrary. A federal law is not only politically possible, it's probable if actually pushed through.

To address some critques:

do people really drive less on their day off?

If part of a legislative package (e.g. an Energy bill) that included driving disincentives (e.g. a gas tax) yes it would. It would adjust the structure of our commuting pattern to be less dependent on oil. Dependency, not actual usage should be the important concept from a planning/policy perspective.

that will just accelerate outsourcing

That can be used for practically any regulatory argument. From carbon cap/trade, to a gas tax, to immigration policy, to even the existence of the FDA or EPA. America is not going to compete with a race to the bottom strategy, no matter what we do. We're going to have to rely and improve on our comparative advantages in technology, infrastructure and natural resources. We'll never prevail by trying to out-compete on labor costs.

I think the biggest counter-debate is the impact on GDP. The French have more productivity per hour of work. This suggests that there probably is an optimum work week. Would people spend more on leisure, retail, personal services with more time off? Probably, which would in turn increase production in those sectors. If one could prove that a 32 hour work week would actually increase GDP, then I think it would sail through a Democratic congress.

I assume then you are willing to take a 1/5 pay cut AND have your gas taxes increased?

Here were have a very interesting paradox happening. We have the left political parties complaining about how high fuel prices are hurting the average worker and drive up the price of food, wanting the government to "do something" about gouging high gasoline prices. But they, in the same breath, want to dramatically increase gas taxes to curb people's driving to save the environment! Sign of the times.

I assume then you are willing to take a 1/5 pay cut

Not necessarily. Like FSLA, you could require overtime pay beyond 32 hours. A bureacratic process could also be required with X timeframe of the passage of the law that requires employers to prove lost revenue as direct result of the adjustment before they could legally reduce anyone's wages.

What's the point in overtime if the whole premise of a shorter work week is to cut down on commuting? There is no way any private company, especially those who are just hanging on themselves, will agree to decrease the hours required for overtime. Since they already have the legal right to reduce someone's wages for those who are paid hourly, and the legal right to reduce salaried employees who work less hours, you would have to have a government elected that would change that. Not a chance.

Besides, there are a lot of people who love their jobs and would not work less anyway. Those who are self employed would never cut back as that means less revenue for them. It's pie in the sky that will never work on anything but a small scale for very few.

What's the point in overtime if the whole premise of a shorter work week is to cut down on commuting

Overtime is always an option. How many people work overtime, as a percentage of the total? Maybe 5%? The point is to make adjustments to the structure of our economy to be less dependent on oil - which means a society that is better able to adapt to high gas prices. Cutting overtime hours from a family budget is easier than cutting food. Besides, even if workers opted for 40-hour overtime, it's likely that the workweek would be much more flexible, and therefore, less road congestion.

you would have to have a government elected that would change that. Not a chance.

I think we are reaching a political boiling point to pass such reforms. Wages have stagnated now for decades while inflation hasn't. Gas prices are hitting the working class disproportionately hard, ditto food, electricity and nat. gas. In the background are news stories highlighting stats like the average CEO making more in a day than the average worker's annual salary - even while they drive their companies over a cliff and endanger or eliminate health benefits and pensions.

You honestly believe that an updated FSLA to a 32 hour workweek with a wage protection provision would NOT get 50+1 with a strong Democratic congressional majority? (which is very likely given '08 electoral math) Please. It just takes 1 successfully lobbied committee chair and it passes.

What is driving US wages down is the 20 million illigal aliens who work for much less, and displacing, American workers. I watch in disbelief as I see US politicians not only give a blind eye to illigal aliens, but actively try to promote more of it! There is no way that governments will cave into anything but what the business lobby dictates. Business is demanding lower paid illigals, and they are getting it. They will in no way sit back and have those same politicians hit them with higher costs of a 32 hour work week for all these illegals.

The ‘time for family’ argument was used by the French socialists (Aubry, Jospin, under Mitterand) when they pushed for and then created the 35 hr. work week. As were ‘lower labor costs.’

It only applied to low level workers, employees. Owners of businesses, independents, and ‘cadres’, which is, more or less, from middle management up, or anyone who held U degrees, as well as ‘the professions’, such as law, medecine, were not subject to it. Medicos continued their 80 hour week, bankers worked 60 (say) and state employees like teachers continued on their regular schedules. Basically, it meant that many of those who held low level jobs could demand a half time job; and the keen could hold two at once. (I have made a complex situation stupidly simple in part to counter US stereotypes.)

Economist and analysts, often politically motivated, have raged about this legislation and its effects, and no consensus has emerged. It isn’t even know, really, if workers appreciated it. Some were pissed to have less work and pay; others welcomed it. Women supported it on the whole. And so on. The political polarization (left-right) has hampered any cold look. It is probably vain to imagine that all the factors could be taken into account in some way. Some things can never be analyzed down to the bare bones - there is fuzz but no skeleton. And history marches on. Conditions in 1990 are not those of 2000, etc.

The French imposed the meter and the kilo but accepted the Babylonian time measurement (after being pressured. Their scheme was decimal.) They have always been on the ‘intellectual, universalist’ side of measurement, the standard unit, the proper measurement. And using those measurements to relate one thing to another, they were, in a sense, the first Taylorists.

The British, then the Americans, and their colonies, always favored more local, natural based units. The day, the season, the local time zone (some 300 in the US at one time), the local measures - pints and barrels... The large, the informally defined, the elastic (see two hours per day on the internet.) Tolerance for local, ancient, measures.

So the 4 day work week is a natural, and a classical contrast to the 35 hour one. Still, examining that might serve.

US productivity is low and could easily stand compression (in..gulp...days or sumpting) but there are many social factors to take into account. As pointed out. Lame finish. Anyway.

I am pushing your logic even further, and suggesting a one day office work week. A while back a friend of mine nailed the term green working. For more on the idea, link to an earlier post:

This is the perfect example of initiatives that would cost very little, and would result in increased quality of life. Plus, as mentioned in the post above, the telepresence technology is getting better and better.

This seems like easy pickin's. I think there is a lot of low hanging fruit to reduce oil demand. What about having those that from home. In the information age it seems more plausible that we could get a good payback on this practice.

I'd take it further. Close business on Sunday. Just about everything was closed on Sunday when I was a kid, and nobody had a coronary. If everything is closed, people might spend time with their families and neighbors.

My favorite alternate work week is the 3 + 3 system. Three longer workdays followed by three days off. The employer has a pool of extra days for scheduling like filling in for someone who is sick or on vacation and the worker has a pool of days off to get a continous vacation or for religious holidays. Its great for continous operations like factories, hospitals, retail and so on since the schedule rolls right over sundays, bank holidays, religious holidays etc. Its a good system for an efficiently run individualistic and secularized culture.

The proposal seems to conflate two ideas: that work should be done in four days, and that there should only be four days of driving to work. I'd very much support the second idea, but my suspicion is that in those jobs requiring creative or deep analytical thought you need more, shorter periods of concentration rather than four long days. Apart from anything else, when you work on the same problem continuously (apart from coffee breaks, etc), you never have to reload the problem into your mind at the start of a work-day and so tend to miss spotting the mistaken assumptions you made the first time you picked up the problem. Of course, my job has the advantage that about 60 percent of the work can technically be done on a PC at home.

It's also amusing that a lot of the people who are enthusiastic aren't into working fewer hours, they want to do some other job (whether entrepreneurial, paid or paid-in-kind) in the extra hours.

Having read the article but not the comments yet, I have a basic question: For efficiency reasons and to compete better, most businesses and factories now run at least 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week. (There may be reduced hours on Sunday). All the gasoline saved by the person who is working four days a week will just be used by whoever works the other days. So there is no savings unless you have a four day business week, not a four day work week for each individual employee.
As for productivity, you have to hire more people to work those extra days, so training them is an additional expense. Additional benefits for each new employee, especially health insurance, would also increase the cost to the employer. This work week proposal might help lower unemployment and help the economy (but maybe not the individual employer). So I would favot it for that reason.

Fuel use for commuting is dire and many ways to cut it down have been explored here.

However, one should remember that fuel use for buildings - creating or building them, servicing them, heating, cooling, lighting, maintaining, keeping access to them, (etc.) is a huge energy hogger. In many places, higher than that private persons use for transport.

One typical upper white-collar worker in the ‘West’ may occupy, 24/24, 365/365, own bedroom, plus hefty % of personal residence, an empty living room during the day, an unused bathroom, den, cellar, kitchen, patio, etc.; an office (even if shared) plus some % of communal space (canteen or other, halls, elevators, conference room, indoor parking, etc. etc.) as well as, in case of holiday home, another few rooms. And if fond family maintain a guest room for that person to visit, add in one more.

This temporary and migratory use of the built-up space is horrendous and simply taken for granted. Isn’t analyzed.

I agree with all 16 reasons, yet I'm somewhat surprised an extremely powerful reason was overlooked: this arrangement is one of the ways of drastically reducing energy consumption, thus saving society from collapse (related to reason #1), without sentencing a considerable part of the population to starvation. It can be seen by looking at a simplified model of the economy based on the Easter Island (EI) case: one part of the population works on the production of necessary items/services (EI: fishing) and the other on discretionary items (EI: statue carving, transporting and setting up).

In the case of EI, the Island Council (?) could have realized in time the deforestation problem, foreseen its devastating potential consequences, and decreed an immediate end to all statue-related activities, so that the new rate of consumption of trees - now restricted to life-sustaining activities (canoe building, etc.) - was equal to the reforestation rate and the society was saved from collapse. This sustainable path could have been followed in any of 4 possible sub-paths:

A: Feed the people formerly working on statues while they relax on the beach.

B. Same as A. but have them develop polyphonic music, martial arts, and calculus (with the restriction of not cutting trees to make instruments, weapons, or paper!)

C. Have the people working in essential activities share those activities (and the associated capital goods: canoes in EI) with those previously working in discretionary activities. Thus, if initially 50% of the people fished 6 days a week and 50% worked on the statues, in the sustainable arrangement 50 % would fish Mon, Tue and Wed, the other 50 % would fish Thu, Fri and Sat using the same canoes as the other 50%, and everybody would have 3 additional free days per week to either relax or develop polyphonic music, martial arts, and calculus. This is equivalent to the shortened work week.

D. Let the people formerly employed in discretionary activities starve.

IMV this is one of the (if not "the") most important issues to solve as we face Peak Oil. Everyone here would agree that all forms of car racing (and jet ski rental and so many other unnecessary activities) should just end for good. But what about the people today making a living from them?

This comment applies mostly to we 8-5 types working M-F.

This suggestion will never be implemented because it makes too much sense.

While the corporate elite as well as others may disagree, IMO most of our "work" is basically competition for what is a fixed, or now shrinking, piece of the pie (ie, a zero sum game). Money we "earn" is often money that's taken out of the pockets of someone else.

50 years ago, most women stayed at home and took care of the family without having to "go to work". What has been gained--not much. All costs have risen to soak up the benefits of two incomes, while making life a lot more complicated and stressful than it used to be.

How many of us can really say that we "produce" something of value which is greater than energy content of the typical two gallons of gasoline we consume in our daily commute?

That being said, if we are talking about changes at the margin, it would be my preference that Wednesday be chosen as the "off", rather than a Monday or Friday, since it would be the least disruptive in the continuity of the week. Most people could figure out how to be productive at home for at least 2-4 hours on that day. I think most people would be willing to come in an hour earlier on the other four days to get this. In most cases, this would beat the heaviest hours of the commute.

Around 4-6 hours of the work week are consumed in meetings. A few key people could come in at the middle 3-4 hours of the day on Wednesday and conduct the more important meetings, which others could listen to or even participate in from home, again avoiding the heavy commute hours.

I think this would be far easier to implement than trying to decide if Monday or Friday should be the preferred day to stay home. It just seems more "balanced" to me to choose Wednesday, rather than getting long weekends off where it would take half a day just to "get up to speed"--my two cents worth.

The 8-hour day didn't just come out some government bureaucrat's head. It was an explicit goal of the labor movement for decades.

I would love to work a 4 day 40 hour week.

Hell, I typically work a 5 day 45-50 hour week now (chemical engineer in a production support role).

In general, I find it difficult to ever leave after 8 hours due to the nature of the job.

I have worked 3 12s and a 4 before for a few months and loved it in a different job, but it seems like the historical inertia really prevents serious consideration of these alternative flex times in manufacturing.

I have even mentioned the potential of working 4 10's to by boss recently, and she of course observed that we already work 10 hours a day...

I would not mind working 4 12's instead of my current schedule, especially if OT was allowed (currently not).