Four-Day Workweek Still Worth Discussing for Some

Would you rather work four 10-hour days than five eight-hour days? It’s been a topic of debate for a few years now, and MSNBC has the latest story about a private company that’s about to give it a shot:

Bert Martinez, CEO of a business-training firm in Houston, has decided to blow away the five-day workweek for himself and his staff of 28.

Starting next month the entire company is going to work for four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days, and the company’s workweek will stay that way if productivity and profits stay the same or increase. It’s all part of Martinez’s strategy to take back his personal life, and his general inclination to shake things up at the firm.

“I want to spend more time with my family, and I’m really curious to see if results are going to stay the same,” Martinez said. “Will we lose money or make money? We’ll see what happens.

Martinez may be onto something. While his experiment may sound unusual, it’s actually part of a growing movement to rethink the standard five-day, 40-hour workweek that has been around in this country since the New Deal.

One larger example of the phenomenon is seen in Utah. In 2008, then-Gov. Jon Huntsman launched the “Working 4 Utah” plan to shift state workers who were putting in five-day weeks to a Monday-through-Thursday, 7 a.m.-to-6 p.m. work schedule. The verdict: Employee satisfaction, energy savings and a boon for the environment.

“I don’t think we have any plans to go back to five days,” said Jeff Herring, executive director of the Utah Department of Human Resource Management. Still, he added that the state is continuing to monitor the new work system to make sure it’s saving money and working both for employees and the public that uses state services.

It’s a radical idea and not without its critics. Utah State Rep. Michael Noel called the initiative “stupid” in a New York Times article last week that said other states are considering following Utah’s lead. Some experts question whether we would ever be able to abandon the five-day grind so entrenched in corporations and society at large.