Feb 21, 2022

Honey, I Shrunk The Workweek!

Why four days at the office are plenty, even without benefits

By Ed Goldman

Faithful readers of this column—actually, I don’t really mind if you see other columnists, just don’t fall in love—may recall my essay of January 24, in which I discussed how some of the Arab emirates had switched its workweek from Sunday-Thursday to Monday-Friday. The chaos predicted by some business analysts failed to show up, so stop blaming Dubai for our supply-chain challenges—especially when it’s more fun to blame it for our gas prices.

We’re having some workweek issues of our own here in our own emirates (which we call states and in which we call “maize” corn. The latter is a reference to a late-1970s TV commercial for, of all things, Mazola Margarine).

Edgy Cartoon

Unhappy Hour

As reported late last year by Andy Medici, whom I’m dying to ask if he’s a descendant of those Medicis), “About 74% of Americans would leave their current job for a four-day workweek, according to a new survey.

“The survey of 1,000 people by software company Simple Texting,” the story continued, “found 97% said they would be more productive with a four-day workweek and similar majorities said it would improve their mental health and allow them to accomplish other goals.” The article ran in the Sacramento Business Journal.

My first thought upon reading this was that, as a freelance writer and consultant, a four-day workweek would represent a serious increase in my work time. And it would definitely throw off the work/sloth balance I’ve tried so desperately to achieve.

Variations on the five-day workweek are nothing new, as you know. 

When he was a firefighter my Dad would be home for three days and then completely gone for four, including overnight. Police officers and other public safety people, nurses and doctors often work irregular shifts or are on-call as needed.

They started a “flex-time” schedule for state workers in California a number of years ago: four 10-hour work days and three days off, which the majority of employees turned into long weekends at one end or the other. 

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If you’ve ever had to visit one of your state’s various agencies, you’re already familiar with the exasperating experience of waiting in line for an hour or more because behind the counter, only half the crew showed up that day. (If you’re keeping score, the offices of California’s secretary of state and the Sacramento County Assessor’s office, where we pay our mysteriously calculated property taxes, have been among the worst offenders.) 

The Medici article also revealed that “when stacked up against other benefits, the four-day workweek has mixed support. While 58% of workers said they would be willing to work two hours or more each day to get that fifth day off, only 43% would rather have a four-day workweek than free company-provided health care.”

This strikes me as cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face—which, if you literally do that, you’d be better off working a five-day workweek and have the company pay to re-attach your nose.

EMPLOYEE #1: Hey, I couldn’t help but notice that you don’t have a nose anymore.

EMPLOYEE #2: True. But the good news is, I’m only working four days a week so I now have plenty of time to empty my savings to pay for it to be sewed back on! I call it having a healthy work/nose balance.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).