The Benefits of a 4-Day Workweek

The Utah state government’s Aug. 4 implementation of a 4-day workweek could result in higher job satisfaction, lower levels of work-family conflict and increased productivity, revealed a new Brigham Young University (BYU) study.

Rex Facer and Lori Wadsworth of BYU’s Romney Institute of Public Management examined the outcome of Spanish Fork City’s transition to a schedule in which most employees work 4 10-hour days a week. Other Utah cities offering similar programs include Salt Lake, West Valley, Provo, West Jordan and Draper.

According to Facer, Utah cities embraced the new schedule to both save money on utilities and to give citizens a wider range of times to access city hall. Now they also are reaping the morale and retention benefits among employees who save on fuel costs by commuting 1 fewer day each week.

Workplace Satisfaction

BYU researchers found that even though 4-day workweek employees work the same number of hours as their traditional counterparts, they reported being more satisfied with their jobs, compensation and benefits, and were less likely to look for employment elsewhere in the next year.

“I am hopeful that the state’s move to a 4-day workweek will be a positive one,” said Wadsworth. “There are going to be very real benefits for employees, specifically decreased gas cost, decreased commute time (both because they only have to commute 4 days, but also because they’ll be commuting during off-peak times, so the commute could potentially be shorter each day) and hopefully, improved work-life balance.”

Among the most significant findings was the 4-day workweek’s connection to conflicts between work and home. These employees were less likely to report that they come home too tired, that work takes away from personal interest and that work takes time they would like to spend with family. Other studies have linked work-home conflict with low job performance and lessened productivity.

“The challenges of balancing work and home lives have become much more complex,” Facer said. “Finding ways to better manage work-family conflict is important in building stronger organizations and satisfied employee bases.”

The study also showed that 60 percent of 4-day workweek employees reported higher productivity as a result of the new schedule.

Alternative Schedules

In 2004, Spanish Fork joined the ranks of other Utah cities that offer alternative scheduling to their employees. Unpublished findings from the researchers indicate that citizens are split evenly among support, neutrality and opposition to the 4-day workweek schedule. The program has continued to evolve since its inception in an effort to balance the complex and sometimes competing expectations of citizens. Within the last year, the city has reinstated Friday hours for some services.

Nine of Utah’s 15 largest cities offer some form of alternative work schedules to their employees, a trend that increasingly is prevalent across the county. Of these cities, the 4-day workweek schedule is the most common program, followed by a schedule that offers every other Friday off with employees making up hours in between.

Facer adds that while the research shows some of the positive effects of alternative schedules, each city needs to evaluate its citizens, workforce and services carefully before and after adoption.

“Policies may need to be adapted to meet local needs,” he said. “Each city has to adapt to balance the very positive feelings the employees have about alternative schedules with the needs of the members of the community.”

The study appears in the June issue of Review of Public Personnel Administration.

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