Is a 4-day work week realistic, practical, feasible across the board?

The discussion about a 4-day work week continues to heat up. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see an article debating the pros and cons, as well as the “necessity” of having an additional day off from what has been the typical 5-day work week for years. It’s interesting to read different perspectives on the topic. From business owners to executives to salaried staff to hourly employees, all seem to be making strong points whether for or against the movement.

I first became aware of a 4-day work week back in 1978 when I moved to a small town just outside San Antonio. USAA, one of the world’s largest employers in San Antonio at the time and still today, was on a 4-day work week. I thought, what a great idea. Of course, at the time I was only thinking about it from the perspective of an hourly employee.

Oh my God, 3-day weekends, every weekend!

As someone who has mostly worked in a home office for the past twenty-plus years, I really don’t have a set work schedule. Actually, I do but what I don’t have is a set schedule to end my workday, or for that matter, even to start the workday. Sure, we could debate the premise of entrepreneurs working 16-hour days, 6-7 days a week as being ridiculous and unnecessary, and essentially being nothing more than a foolish badge of achievement but let’s keep that for another day. I promise we will address it here very soon.

Today, let’s look at the 4-day work week from the small business owner’s perspective. Is it feasible to operate the typical small business only 4 days? For the most part, the answer is no. After all, the business will need to be open 6, if not 7 days a week. It’s certainly a different situation than that of an office setting for a major corporation that could essentially close an extra day like a weekend day. Or schedule overlapping shifts and remain open 5 days a week.

Yes, there are options and probably some very creative options to make it work. Or are we really talking about moving to a 4-day work week but keeping daily schedules at 8 hours, at the same wage as for a 40-hour work week? With already slim margins at the typical small business, that seems impossible to even consider. For restaurants, I don’t see any way it would be possible.

That all said, I am an advocate for a 4-day work week at 8 hours per day. In certain work environments, I can see how it could actually increase productivity as some of the case studies have proven. A 4-day work week could go a long way to improving employee wellbeing and mental health. Yes, I could see the benefits, but I can also see the pitfalls.

Personally, I envision the 4-day work week as an option. For some companies it could work. I just don’t believe it can be something that would work effectively across all industry segments and especially, in a society that is driven by instant gratification and convenience. Therein is the key.

I believe the 4-day work week would have had more of a chance of being successful across the board back in the day, when weekends were days of leisure, family and worship.

Many businesses were closed on Sundays and workers had the day off. Saturdays were for errands and chores and dealing with things that weren’t done during the week. People stayed close to home washing their cars, mowing their yards and grabbing a few things at the local grocery store.

Customer-facing businesses were open, typically until 5-6 PM but banks, offices, etc. were closed on Saturday. So, it was mostly small businesses that were open. For businesses that were open on Sunday such as bakeries and restaurants, they closed early on Sunday and all-day Monday, as well.

Of course, that is not the case today as we are accustomed to being able to do what we want to do and at any time during the day. We’ve even grown accustomed to stores being open on major holidays, late hours and 7 days a week. Do we really need to shop at 6AM the day after Thanksgiving or shop for furniture at 10PM or for anything on Sunday? Certainly not, but it is what we want. It’s what we command.

If off from work an extra day per week, what would we do that day? Would that extra day be like the typical weekend is today with us running from store to store, almost at a frantic pace? If work schedules revert to a 4-day work week, will extra workers be necessary to man the stores and restaurants? Will some people look to take on an extra job with an extra day off, thus killing the notion of the extra day being necessary for one’s wellbeing and mental health?

I really don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution. Yes, the 40-hour week should be an option, but it cannot be the rule of thumb across the board. That is, unless our mindset as a society reverts to the way it was back in the 1950’s. I just don’t see that we can revert back to living an Ozzie & Harriett life again. I, for one will not be wearing a tie for dinner while sitting at my dining table? I look forward to your thoughts, so please don’t be shy!

Have a great day (and weekend). Make it happen. Make it count!