How do you feel about a four day working week?

In the UK it’s becoming increasingly common for truck drivers to work 4-on-4-off. Some don’t like it, but many think it’s great. It means that if you take four days annual leave (they get 20 to use) they get 8 consecutive days off.

In an industry where long hours, weekend working and nights away from home are the norm, it does work pretty well

Wouldn’t that give them 12 days off?

I understand that some jobs are synchronous, and 40 hours on the clock means 40 hours worked. But other jobs are more task or project oriented. As long as the task/project is on schedule and completed in a timely fashion, why should it matter how long it takes? At my workplace I see people who are meticulous about being there exactly 40 hours, despite the fact that they don’t do anything of value. I think a better model is to say, “Here is a project that should take you six month to complete at a nominal 40 hours a week. Feel free to set your own schedule.”

I agree. My first regular full-time job was in the accounting department of a crane manufacturing company. For the most part I loved my job and the people I worked with but when I finished my work I had to look busy for the rest of the day. I’d clean out and rearrange the storage closets, go over my work again, blah, blah, blah. It was awful. I dreaded the days when I knew I didn’t have a lot to do.

Yeah, this is the part I don’t get. From the systems POV it is of course beneficial to cut unnecessary work and to work more efficiently. And the system would potentially produce 25% more if that efficient work was done five days a week instead of four. Unless the theory is that current workers cannot work efficiently if they have to work five days a week?

I can I suppose understand that argument in today’s world in which many workers are also navigating the work of family responsibilities and not living in a circumstance in which one partner is the stay at home work devoted side of the partnership, and the other is the earn the money to pay the bills side.

FWIW I sort of do the four days a week thing.

In our pediatric clinic we are open five and half days a week including until 7:30 pm last patient scheduled four evenings of the week. Plus one doing hospital rounds each day (was two but we just dropped off one hospital) and call (which is responding to phone calls when the office is not open). There is no way fewer hours would result in us being as productive as there is little wasted time. Staff working fewer hours would also not result in the same productivity - if anything our productivity is rate limited by staff shortages. Pushing support staff harder the hours they are there is not an option. Maybe they are not up to 100% full theoretical production limits, but they are at the practical limit without risking quality falling off.

As the providers we need to cover those hours. That means X hours per week per FT provider scheduled with patients, time making rounds, commitment of availability on call X days a week, and making time to return patient calls before and after scheduled patient time and during any times open for scheduled patients that do not have a patient to be seen, which is rare for any typically busy provider. The scheduling puzzle has to cover the hours required with each provider doing their fair share of Saturday and evening hours, but beyond that we can be creative. In my site that means a variety of individual schedules. Personally I work four and half official office days most weeks and some weeks four - two days that are about eleven hours, two that are about eight (one ending earlier one starting later), and the half day averaging three Saturdays a month of about four to five hours. That gives me one weekday off per week which has always been great. (With rare exceptions when I will work that off day.) Week ends on call include Sundays going in to make rounds but that is just a few hours there and back, and a fair amount of time on the phone both weekend and weeknight calls.

Oops - of course

My wife and I both work 4 days a week.

Wife has an 8 day week. Say her week starts on Monday, 7am to 7pm for two days, 12 hour shifts. Then 24 hours off then 7pm to 7am for two more night then 4 days off. Next work week will start on Tuesday.

I work 3 ten hour graveyard shifts, then get off on Friday morning and have to turn around and return to work for a 10 hour day shift on Saturday. Back to work Tuesday night.

The time off is great but our circadian rhythm are all thrown off. But you can get used to it.

I’m ambivalent about a 4 day work week but I do have thoughts on the general breakout of the week itself.

From my own experience, a 3 day weekend seems preferable. You need 1 day to recuperate and relax, 1 day to do home chores, and a third day to be active and have fun. With a two day weekend, you lose one of those or do them incompletely. So if we want a 3 day weekend and weekends are 2/7ths of the year, then we would want something like a 21 day “month” with two three day weekends (or a 42 day months with four weekends).

One problem with the week is that we’ve all decided to match everyone up onto the same definition and schedule. This causes a problem when people want to do their chores and home life business, but the workers who would facilitate all of that are all off from work, and also enjoying their weekend. It would be better if there was more of a mix of schedules, so that businesses could easily provide their services to people who are on their break.

On the other hand, having a shared schedule allows us to coordinate social activities and get together large groups to go out and party all night, etc. There is value in having a shared schedule.

From research done on fitness, weightlifting, and athletics, we know that the ideal work structure (for progressive overload-style physical work) is four to six 7-day weeks of hard work with a one 7-day week break of lower-intensity recovery. We also know that the ideal number of days to try and build new muscle is 3-4 days per 7-day week - with both 3 and 4 performing equally well. This somewhat implies that the ideal is actually that you want to workout every other day and that an even-numbered week length would be ideal for workout regimes.

However, as an athlete moves into an advanced stage, they need to add training days in order to keep gaining. My guess would be that what’s really happening is that, once you start hitting the limits of the human body, you need to continue subjecting the body to the stimulus that you’ve trained it to, in order to convince it to maintain the muscle mass rather than converting it into fat, and so you need a baseline of activity for maintenance of capabilities, past a certain point. Under this theory, it would still be maximal to workout for progressive overload every other day, but you would add in maintenance days on the off-days with roughly 1/7ths of your days being a full rest.

If we hypothesize that the brain works similarly to our body then that would imply that tasks that require learning new skills and knowledge could also be maximized by following a similar schedule. Children in schools, for example, might do better if they alternated the intensity of their workload. E.g. intense days might have new subjects and tests, maintenance days might focus on materials review and physical education.

For both children and adults, we might include a mandatory break every four to six 7-day weeks (28 to 42 days).

Now, if we take that all together, we might envision a 42 day month with 10(ish) day weeks.

In a normal week, you have two off days at the end that are shared with everyone else. In the middle of the week, you have one day that is available for chores. You can choose which day that is.

The last week of the month there is a 12-day week. The first half of the week gives you one chore day. The other half is a free, recovery period.

The year would not align with months.

All of the above has zero chance of happening but, I suspect, it would optimize human capability and happiness.