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It’s back. After making an earlier appearance when gas costs were at their peak, the four-day work week is making a repeat appearance thanks to the recession. The first time around, the idea sprouted as a way to save people the cost of commuting one day a week amidst $4 gas. People would simply work longer hours on the four days they did work, and take a fifth day off of extreme commuting.
Now, some companies are reducing work hours in an effort to save costs. By idling factories or cutting back hours, they save on what they have to pay people or on overhead costs for keeping things running. We wrote about the trend this week, pointing to both window maker Pella and the City of Atlanta. So did the New York Times, pointing to Pretech Corporation and several Nevada casinos. Readers jumped online to comment on how great the idea was, and why every company should consider a shortened week in lieu of layoffs.
The problem? We live in a service and knowledge economy. Many of us aren’t paid by the hour—for that matter, few of us even have “hours” any more. Rather, we’re paid for what we know or who we know, or for how well we serve our customers. Being “always on” for clients, working when the work needs to get done, and contributing ideas when inspiration strikes are the already well-ingrained work patterns for so many professionals working today. The simple reality is that our work life isn’t constrained to a five-day-a-week world. Or, for that matter, a four.
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