AOL JobsBy Richard Eisenberg for
Labor Day, I have a suggestion for America's employers that I think
would make their employees happier and more productive: Offer them a
Giving staffers one weekday off would be especially appealing to the biggest chunk of the American labor force – boomers.
of them could use the free day to take their parents to doctor's
appointments or handle other eldercare duties, spend time with their
grandkids, learn new skills and transition into retirement. Four-day
workweeks can also let them cut their commutes.
4-Day Weeks' Pay and Benefits
you put in 40 hours during your four days, you generally get full pay
and benefits. You might even keep your benefits by working 30 to 40
hours, though you'll likely take a proportional pay cut.
matter how you structure a four-day workweek, though, your job needs to
get done – either by you or by you and someone working the fifth day.
workweeks – the delightful term human resources people use for putting
in 40 hours in fewer than five days – are "a great way to provide
employees the flexibility to meet the demands of work and life outside
of work," says Lisa Horn, co-leader of the Society for Human Resource
Management (SHRM) Workplace Flexibility Initiative and partnership with
the Families and Work Institute.
"A four-day workweek allows you
to continue to contribute on the job while gaining the time to pursue a
long-neglected avocation, to help care for the grandchildren or to
simply enjoy the other parts of life," says Cali Williams Yost, chief
executive and founder of Flex+Strategy Groupin Madison, N.J.
Dixon, co-founder and chief executive of Hourly.com, a site that
matches job-seekers with employers, says "well above half our users are
looking for something other than a traditional workweek."
Love, the former chief executive of Indianapolis search engine
optimization consultant Slingshot SEO, which has a four-day workweek
told Inc. that this employee perk "is an amazing draw in the age of
recruiting the best talent to your team" and leads to soaring retention
What Makes 4-Day Workweeks Rare?
why are employers with four-day workweeks so hard to find in America,
especially when there seems to be such a demand for this benefit? (Never
mind that the average workweek is far shorter than 40 hours in many
parts of the world: 29 hours in the Netherlands and 33 hours in Norway
and Denmark, for example. And don't get me started on best-selling
author Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Workweek notion.)
five-day-a-week workers must routinely, and sometimes furtively, scoot
out for doctor's appointments, errands and elder care duties for their
parents – and they're doing so more often. Employers often don't like it
when staffers head out for these reasons.
According to the
Captivate Network's recent Homing From Work survey of 4,000 white collar
workers, 45 percent leave work for doctor and dentist appointments and
52 percent go out to buy gifts, greeting cards and flowers. There's been
a 31 percent increase in running errands since 2011, the study says.
just 36 percent of employers permit at least some employees to have
four-day workweeks, says Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the
Families and Work Institute. Only 7 percent allow all or most staffers
to do their jobs this way.
"I don't believe the majority of
workplaces are supportive of four-day workweeks," says Jessica DeGroot,
founder of the Third Path Institute, a Philadelphia-based group that
aims to help employees lead "integrated" lives.
Why employers oppose 4-day workweeks
Strong organizational norms on who gets ahead at work. DeGroot says
managers tend to promote staffers who "put work first," which typically
means showing up every weekday.
2. Four-day workweeks add
complexity to managers' jobs. "It's much easier to say to everyone,
'Come in at the same time every day and work long hours,'" she says.
it isn't that employers don't want to offer four-day workweeks, it's
that they're not sure what's in it for them," Horn says.
course, some types of jobs or workplaces don't easily lend themselves to
four-day workweeks. And some employers must pay hourly staffers
overtime if they put in more than eight hours a day to get the fifth day
Where the Perk Exists
progressive employers in a variety of fields let all or a portion of
their staffers work four days a week. (Technology and accounting firms
seem to be leading the way.)
Everyone gets a four-day week
year-round at tech educator Treehouse Island, in Orlando, Fla., and at
Slingshot SEO. Chicago software company 37signals has 32-hour, four-day
shifts from May through October.
When Work Works, a book
published by the Families and Work Institute and SHRM, describes dozens
of employers offering four-day workweeks and other types of flexible
Some enterprising employees, including ones at senior levels, manage to pull off their own four-day schedules.
Axelrod, chief operating officer for Provident Financial Management in
Santa Monica, Calif., four years ago began taking Mondays off to provide
child care for his granddaughter Madelyn, allowing her mom to work
"Finding ways to interact with children and
grandchildren just has a reward you can't get out of work," Axelrod told
ThirdPath. He now provides caregiving for a grandson each week, too.
Different Ways They're Offered
workweeks can be done in many ways, with varying hours. For example,
the 5-4/9 arrangement lets staffers alternate between weeks of five
nine-hour days and ones with four nine-hour days, so you get a day off
every other week.
Pat Katepoo, the Kaneohe, Hawaii-based head of
Work Options, a firm that helps employees negotiate flexible work
arrangements, thinks boomers might especially like working a somewhat
kinder version of that: eight-hour days with every other Friday off,
even if doing so means taking a small pay cut.
"That's a good,
creative option for this age group," Katepoo says."They can enjoy longer
weekends 26 times a year and with Monday federal holidays, get some
four-day weekends. That would let them shoot up to Cape Cod or drive
three states over to see their grandkids."
The Trouble With One Method
I'm not keen on what's known as the 4/10 model, especially for boomers,
even though it's the most widely used compressed workweek schedule.
one requires employees to punch 10-hour days on each of their four
workdays. But you can wind up so pooped after continually clocking in
for 10 hours that you'll lack the stamina to make your fifth day
enjoyable and productive.
"I'm 52 and I don't have the energy I
had when I was 22," DeGroot says. "With a 4/10 schedule, I'd need the
other day to recover and that defeats the whole purpose of a four-day
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