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4 Reasons the 4-Day Work Week Could Be a Disaster

Like many other American workers, you may be intrigued with the idea of working fewer hours, having more family time, enjoying more relaxation, and pursuing professional enrichment. A four-day work week sounds like the perfect solution, right? The reality of changing up the work week is that it could be very different.

Like many other American workers, you may be intrigued with the idea of working fewer hours, having more family time, enjoying more relaxation, and pursuing professional enrichment. A four-day work week sounds like the perfect solution, right? The reality of changing up the work week is that it could be very different.

working late 

(Photo Credit: BLW Photography/Flickr)

Here are just four reasons the four-day work week could be disastrous — in both personal and professional realms.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

  • 1. Overwork: While it’s nice to think that employees can easily cram the work from five days into a four-day work week, the reality is that many Americans are already overworked, contributing to “road rage, workplace shootings, the rising number of children in day care and increasing demands for after-school activities,” according to Dean Schabner at ABC News. One infographic on Visual.ly also depicts the true scope of the problem (with one-third of Americans saying that they already feel chronically overworked).
  • 2. Underemployment: It’s really a game of “what if”? When employees work fewer hours, that could mean they’d also brings home less money. Of course, the employers could increase salaries and per-hour pay (or offer other compensatory incentives for higher levels of productivity), but there’s no guarantee. So, while the employer is likely to find ways to cover the workload (and/or inspire greater productivity), employees would be faced with the brutal reality of underemployment. 
  • 3. Multiple jobs: The most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 4.9 percent of US employees already have multiple jobs. That four-day work week (and the associated implications for lower overall take-home pay) could mean a significant increase in that rate. Instead of reducing stress and giving employees more time off to enjoy life, employees would then need to find additional work to compensate for the short-fall in lost income.
  • 4. Dystopian reality: Whenever you hear or read news that sounds too good to be true, there’s often a catch (or more than one). With the economic downturn, you’ve probably read news stories about layoffs, restructurings, and cut-backs. That fabulous-sounding, four-day work week is one of the strategies companies use to improve the bottom line. It may sound great. It can be of significant benefit to the employer, and it can even be of benefit to the worker — if he or she needs to work fewer hours or requires a lighter workload. But fewer hours often means just what it sounds like: lower pay, and more scrambling to make ends meet. 

For good or bad, any employer has the option of implementing a four-day work week. Before you jump in, look (and ask questions) before you leap. If you examine all the implications, you could see that the four-day work week would be disastrous for you.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your thoughts on the four-day work week: love it or hate it? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Esther Lombardi
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Vincent Tenorio
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Vincent Tenorio

Working 4 days 7-5 and being off 3 days = way more family/recreational time.

Yuki
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Yuki

This article pretty much sums up the average American 9-5 job anyway. I had 4 ten hour days and I can say all my coworkers and myself were more productive. This article is a distaterous, until you actually know what it’s like to have 4 tens, don’t wrote articles about it. The extra day off priceless and working for 2 explore hours a day ensures a hard days work is put in. I bet any money that if we all went this route, it would be the opposite of this articles statement, because at the end of the day, most… Read more »

Bill
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Bill

I would have thought a 4 day week would hurt an employer because the Friday becomes an o.t day instead of a regular one, production always takes a hit at the end of the week interrupting what could be a full production day instead of broken two hrs, and the employer squeezes the hrs out of a shift leaving no room to adjust in other words the company is having more O.T to pay instead of less O.T I work 4-10’s and I see the company is loseing big time because of it and can’t figure out why they would… Read more »

Westwood
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Westwood

I worked a labor intensive job on the 4×10 work week and at first it was a little challenging because of extra psychical aspects but i didn’t t take long to adjust to it. The net result from my project engineering prospective was overwhelmingly positive. We finished more work with higher quality due to the extra uninterrupted time. Time that was used for better planing and more complete execution. If My job entailed more sitting or standing it would have been a piece of cake to extend the day by 2 hours.

Harley
Guest
Harley

So the first segment sates that cramming more hours into fewer days will affect workers and then the entire rest of the article contradicts that point by saying they’ll be working less hours thus implying that more hours wont be crammed into fewer days? this article is ridiculous.

Mr C
Guest
Mr C

In re 2 and 3, I think the idea is “Make Prosperity for All: 32 Hour Work Week & No Pay Cut”, … jesus christ . . .

Nikey
Guest
Nikey

I think this article has it all wrong. Like severely wrong. The Netherlands is already experimenting with a four day work week as well as the government bodies of Great Britain discussing its benefits. To add to that multiple multi-billion dollar corporations throughout North America already offer this for employees if they choose. The consensus from every corporation/government that has laid out the blue prints for a four day work week or has actually implemented has nothing but good things to say about it. It increases people mental health dramatically so I don’t understand why you write ‘Americans are already… Read more »

me
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me

All these can be easily solved (though less easily for smaller companies). Pay the same, hire more people.
As some people have already said the profit for companies has increased whilst job opportunities and wages have declined or remained stagnant. A four day week can solve atleast one of these problems. The other is simply the greed of a few.
A happier, wealthier (in pocket and spirit) population will lead to a better life and economy for all.

Rakesh Malik
Guest
Rakesh Malik

If you measure productivity by how many hours people are working, it’s going up. If you measure it by how much they get done without sacrificing quality, well there’s your reason that most of our production and technical leadership is now overseas, and why there are fewer and fewer american companies doing good work. People are working longer hours, accomplishing less because they’re burned out, they don’t have enough recovery or family time to have a life worth living, and wages aren’t reflecting their wasted lives. They’re overworked because the management would rather they be so overworked that they don’t… Read more »

4 day Billy
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4 day Billy

Love my 4 day weeks, we work 4 10-12 hours days Monday to Thursday, Friday,Saturday,Sunday off, a true mini vacation every week!! And OMG, all the hotties at the beach on Fridays!

MYCA
Guest
MYCA

I think the author assumed it would be 4-8 hour days. 4 day work weeks and variances there of have been around a long time. Some do 9 hour days and take every other Friday off. Some do 10 hour days, lots of variations. There are a lot of benefits to both the employer and the employee. They have worked out fine.

KayT
Guest
KayT

My mother was a nurse and enjoyed the periods of time when she worked 4 on 3 off. She worked longer shifts, but enjoyed having that extra day. Personally, working in the tech world has taught me that employers will work their employees however many hours they can get out of them. I’ve worked at large companies where, if you don’t work 12 hours a day routinely, you’re considered a slacker. That kind of employer might shorten the work week, but they won’t shorten the hours they actually expect you to work, so that extra day wouldn’t really exist. Everyone… Read more »

Beth
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Beth

A 40 hour work week in four days is good, IF you constantly put in overtime anyways, love your job so much that you don’t realize how fast time flew by in the 8 hour work day, or you’ve been used to working a 12 hour shift initially (as I have). Having the days of work split actually makes it tolerable. One could get burned out too quickly if they constantly have 3 days off in a row. Keep in mind many companies (especially retail) look for a full time position as 32 hours/week. So 40 in 4 days may… Read more »

Art
Guest
Art

I’ve never heard of an employer offering a 32 hr week to full time. 40 in 4 days I have. That setup is good for people who’s jobs require complex and deep analysis (since you spend longer dedicated to a task). Either 4 straight or 2 on 1 off 2 on 2 off.

I’m not sure where in the name of green rabbits a 4×8 schedule came from.

S
Guest
S

Let’s first be clear about the 4 day work week being discussed. Is it 4 days at 8 hours a day for 32 hours total or a standard 40 hour week crammed into 4 days. In the first it would cause additional stress for employees trying to cram their workload into fewer hours, the second would simply cause employees to burn out – I know from first hand experience that 10 hour days are exhausting!

Ron
Guest
Ron

Many people in the U.S.A. already work flexible hours some doing 3-12s, 4-10s and other permutations. The issue in this post seems to be over what is expected for the salary. We don’t have a 9-5 world anymore but the increase in connectivity means many enjoy a better balance. I may work while on the train home for example but that let’s me use the one hour train ride to my advantage. I don’t have to stay in the office longer and still get home at a reasonable hour. As for 4-10 hour days. I would love that. I just… Read more »

Jan
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Jan

Here in the Netherlands it is pretty common to work 4 days a week (3 even) and people seem to be quite happy with it. Even myself, I just feel it adds so much balance to my life. Also it opens opportunities for other people who wouldnt have a job to fill in these gaps otherwise. Dont overthink it please.

Celeste
Guest
Celeste

Make lunchtime and home time compulsory, maintain 8am-5pm jobs with 5 day working week. Not necessary to decrease the working days.

People are getting overstressed and overworked due to no self discipline when it comes to delegating, passing the buck and not saying no.

Debt and Credit counseling should be compulsory if one late payment to any account is made or not made.
Americans make too much debt. Thus causing a snowball effect.

Colbert
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Colbert

Just as Csell mentioned there is no reason for lower pay based on the 4day week. All they have to do to compensate is increase the hours to 10hr days, same pay and still 40hrs.. I myself would rather stay at work 2 more hours a day than have to come in on a friday. Anyway by the the time the evening comes who’s really bothered by 2 more hours?? I look at a full day off as meaning I can go through a whole day, go to sleep and wake up and not have to go any where that… Read more »

Lorie
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Lorie

This article is biased and overtly negative about something that isn’t new, has benefitted many and could benefit more if only American employers weren’t so stingy and suspicious of their employees. Shorter work weeks are common in many Western European counties where the majority of people enjoy a better standard of living than we do. Perhaps the author should write about that.

Yipeia
Guest
Yipeia

I love the four day work week. I work for 10 hour days and get all my work done in that period of time. Then I have one day to do absolutely nothing, then one day to do work around the house, do tasks & chores that can be done during the workweek, and I have one day to start getting ready to get back to the workweek. It’s perfect as far as I’m concerned.

Jethro
Guest
Jethro

Lots of positive suggestions among the respondents!
Nice to see like minded people, all having a relatively common view.
When you combine the advantages of 4 X 10 hour days, it really makes sense:
20% less commuting time – better for everyone, including other commuters.
20% less ramp and wind down time.
20% less childcare… Possibly offset by more hours, depending on spouse work hours.
20% less to/from work travel costs.

Would I do it if offered? I would certainly give it a try!

Lorie
Guest
Lorie

I work 4 days a week. But it’s 8 hours a day…not 10 hours. It depends if you work for a good company or not, and if they want to pay you 40 hours. It’s a 50/50. It’s nice to have the day off, but when it comes time to get your paycheck, the money isn’t there.

Dan
Guest
Dan

I used to work 4 10 hour days and it was fantastic. To Richard’s point it was the late 90’s to 2000 when the unemployment rate was around 4% and even lower in Greenville, SC where I lived at the time. When I briefly worked the 4 8 hour days schedule for 20% less, I found I still worked close to 9-10 hours a day anyway so I only gained a day and lost money.

Richard
Guest
Richard

The only way wages will ever go up is if unemployment drop to around 5% or less .
So that it becomes a employe market place ,rather than a employer market place .No Salary worker should work more than 40 hours a week when unemployment is above 5.4% . that would give companies reason to hire more workers maybe .Also overtime should be double time not time and a half .

Carl
Guest
Carl

I worked a 4/10 schedule for seven years. I’d go back to it in a heartbeat if my employer offered it. IMHO, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. 🙂

Uneasy
Guest
Uneasy

Problem of course is, that if workers receive a better share and work less for the same money, they have more time to think about how many things are terribly wrong in our democracy soap opera. The big players don’t want that.

Keynes
Guest
Keynes

Keynes predicted lower working hours (due to increased productivity) decades ago, and while he was right in general, the profits from that productivity gain, went into the pockets of the business and stock owners. Workers only got a fraction of the increased gains. Keynes wrongly predicted a fair share of that and a close to no work situation (due to automation) which didn’t work out unfortunately. Read up on that topic. It’s time to distribute the profits of the economy and therefore the good life more evenly in society.

REG
Guest
REG

Yes the 10 hour day 4 day week can be good. Workers take time to ramp up at the start of a shift. Also after lunch. So this can be productive. But the employee can gain a day off and certainly cuts his/her commute time and costs by 20%. It could be good for certain types of employees. such as direct labor types. Others who are salaried and work routine 10 hour days 5 day weeks anyway would find themselves not getting their work done and would either have to work more at night, or on their day off or… Read more »

REG
Guest
REG

Come on Steve… Productivity has gone up for sure. Wages have gone up less than productivity or as you argue nt at all. Cost of raw materials have also gone up. Often times prices have come down or remained flat for the products produced. Without productivity companies would go out of business and then nobody has a job. If you think companies make too much money, buy some stock and reap those big profits yourself. Back tot the Article. One other downside for the employee not mentioned is healthcare. If companies shift to 4 day work weeks that would put… Read more »

NetScanr
Guest
NetScanr

One aspect overlooked: Companies could ‘be open’ for a 4-day work week & shut-down for 3 days. Facilities cost-savings would be beneficial for the company. Various studies have shown increased performance by employees when a 4-day week is implemented. Not only do they do as much as in a 5-day week, but often more. That would yield higher revenues for the company and a higher degree of job-satisfaction for employees. If implemented correctly, it could be a win-win for everyone.

Chrystine Collins-Blums
Guest
Chrystine Collins-Blums

Most employers who instituted a 4 day work week went to 10 hr days. This can be more efficient for many, especially those with long commutes. It can be a challenge if there are school or daycare issues. It is also important to take customer service into consideration and and stagger the day off so not everyone is oit on a Monday or a Friday. Every other Monday or Friday off is a good compromise with one 8 hr day in a the pay period, too

Bruce
Guest
Bruce

Depending on the distance you travel, one less day of commuting time is itself more personal or family time. I am speaking in terms of four 10 hour days where the type of job allows. Also, whatever happened to the concept of an eight hour day door-to-door INCLUDING an hour for lunch with pay? That seems to exist in very few situations these days. Meals have become regarded as a privilege – also a contributor to stress and poor health. Today if you want lunch, you are at the job at least a half hour longer for no additional pay.

Csell
Guest
Csell

Depends on how the 4-Day work week is classified. My company went to 4-Day work week for the Factory workers but made the shifts 10 hour. So you still work a 40 work week. They just adjusted holidays and vacations accordingly so that the 4-10hr workers have the same time of as those of us still working normal 5-8hr work weeks.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I disagree. Productivity has gone up while wages have remained stagnant. The difference in profit has gone to the owners. It’s time to return some of that increased profit to the workers through either salary or time off. This article assumes that the owners couldn’t possibly do with a 5′ shorter yacht.

Arash
Guest
Arash

great analysis, thank you.

crlos116
Guest
crlos116

TRUE!!!!!!

Cap_Pig
Guest
Cap_Pig

We already get 9-12 hr days out of our people 5 days a week; why would we give them a 4 day work week and artificially minimize productivity?

NetScanr: If your company benefits from shutting down its facilities one day a week, there must not be very profitable activity taking place there anyway – perhaps they would benefit infinitely more if they shut it down for good. My hope is that this is not the case for all stakeholders…

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