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The four-day workweek

three-dayThe reality of today’s workplaces is that employees are stressed because they not only face excess work duties, but they work long hours, which keeps them away from their homes, families and leisure for long periods of time. According to many HR and legal experts, the results of overworked employees are distraction and low productivity in the company, forcing employers to demand even more hours from their employees, among other things.

Everybody I talk to seems to think that the solution of a four-day workweek should enhance employee effectiveness and productivity, reduce stress, improve employees’ enjoyment of work, and balance their work/life. Then why don’t government policy-makers and organizations catch on to a nationally legislated four-day workweek to improve both our society and the productivity of the workforce?

This concept has been the norm in France and Germany for quite some time, and certain studies have shown that they have the highest productivity in the world. The four-day workweek is even catching on in the US with successful results in the state of Utah (see HRGuru provides additional insight on how a four-day workweek works based on the Utah experience.

What would a four-day workweek mean? One important point is that employers would focus on employees completing tasks, rather than simply putting in hours. There exist various formulas, but the most popular is working four 10-hour days (“4-10”). Under this formula, workers would still work 40 hours, but over a period of four days instead of five—removing a day of commuting and allowing workers to enjoy a three-day weekend.

Donna Lero, Chair in Families and Work at the University of Guelph, says an estimated three to ten percent of Canadians are now on a 4-10 schedule. Although the idea is new to many, she notes it first gained popularity in the 1970s as a way of relieving rush-hour traffic.

There are several relevant case studies employers can look at, such as the lessons Bell Canada learned from its trials with the four-day workweek. The Oil Drum provides sixteen reasons why this (four-day workweek) might be an idea whose time has come.

Tell me, are we ready to take the “Four-Day Workweek Challenge”, and make Thursday the new Friday?

Yosie Saint-Cyr
Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor
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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 18 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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4 thoughts on “The four-day workweek
  • Lynn says:

    Because of the economy my company has put some employees on workshare. I am now working Monday to Thursday, but still 8 hours per day. I personally like it so much that I hope to remain on a 4 day work week until I retire in 3 years. This might be a way to keep those valuable older workers in the workplace.
    As far as a 10 hour day, not for me.

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  • Samantha says:

    These are great points. I think that this idea looks good in theory in a general manner, and would work well for some people. It would be a huge undertaking to convert everyone to a four-day workweek.
    On the bright side, this may alleviate some traffic problems. If some people are working a five-day week from 9-5 and others are working a four-day week from 8-6, this might alleviate some of the traffic we encounter and thus reduce time we spend commuting.
    I agree though, a 10-hour day seems like a long time to be spending at work. I would definitely be anxious to get home after a day like that!

  • Sandra Philpotts says:

    It’s a great idea in theory and I think some people would love it, but some new issues might arise, for example day care hours – people that have kids in day care might not be able to take advantage of the four hour work week. And what about people that commute an hour or more to work? They will end up having 12 hour days! Driving home after 10 hours at work might be hard..