Four-Day Work Weeks

Dear Anita,

I just love 3-day weekends! How can I convince my manager to adjust my schedule to a 4-day work week permanently?

Dear, TGI Thursday,

Back in 1914, Henry Ford reduced The Ford Motor Company’s work week from 48 to 40 hours, believing that long hours decreased productivity. Is it time, 101 years later, to decrease the work week even further?

Not every company can embrace the four-day work week. Weekends (at least Sundays) were once sacred with the vast majority of businesses closing up shop. But in the late 1960s and early ’70s, more retail enterprises started opening on Saturdays and eventually many added Sundays to their schedules to increase or maintain profitability. Can your company’s business survive with a four-day week?

It’s a rare company that would offer you a 32-hour week for the same wage as your 40-hour week. One way to maintain productivity (and salary) is with a “compressed” work week, where 40 hours are scheduled into four days. Adjusting to a 10-hour day can be a challenge at first, but it does have its perks. If you’re getting to work an hour earlier and leaving an hour later, this may decrease your commute time since you’ll be driving during off-peak hours. A four-day week also cuts the cost of commuting, potentially saving employees 20% in gas. If you have kids in daycare, you may be able to cut childcare expenses as well (though finding a facility with extended hours could prove difficult).  While you’re compressing your work week, you’re also compressing your evenings. There will be less time to cram in all after-work activities — cooking, errands, kids’ homework, and — oh, yes, — pleasurable leisure activities!

4-Day_Week_000017443240If an entire company could go to a four-day work week, the business could potentially save 20% of its energy costs. However, some companies that implement four-day work weeks stagger employee schedules to provide adequate phone and email coverage for customers during the traditional five-day week. That can create logistical challenges for scheduling meetings and keeping all employees on-track. Businesses that operate 24/7 may find three 10-hour shifts creates unprofitable overlap.

After pondering the pros and cons yourself, approach your boss outlining the benefits to the company as well as employees. If management says no, you can always move the Netherlands, where the four-day work week is standard.

Readers: Would you prefer a compressed week in order to have year-round three-day weekends?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Thermostat Wars

Anita,

The women in my office are at odds with the men over the temperature. If we dress appropriately for the warm weather outside, we freeze to death in the office. It’s hard to concentrate on your work when your fingers turn into blue Popsicles! Can you help us find a happy medium?

Dear “In a Cold Sweat,”

Adjusting the heating thermostatAfrican american man push button digital climate control

 

It’s a tale as old as… well, the invention of modern air conditioning, circa 1902. The gender divide is apparent when it comes to the preferred thermostat setting. I’ve known women who keep a polar fleece jacket or blanket at their desks, or who sneak a space heater next to their feet (Smokey the Bear would definitely not approve). While I won’t go so far as to call it a sexist conspiracy, the predicament does seem to affect women more than men – except for those unfortunate males who work for a female supervisor in the sweltering throes of a hot flash, jealously guarding the key to the AC.

Clothing, age, even your weight can affect how you experience temperatures. If your office has a suit and tie policy for the men, the extra layer of clothing is going to make the guys hotter under the proverbial collar. To be fair, guys can’t really strip down to the sleeveless tops that are acceptable for women to wear at work. It is easier to add a clothing layer to warm yourself up than it is to cool off when you can disrobe no further!

If Team Cold and Team Hot can’t keep their hands off the thermostat, your company may have to institute a climate control policy. OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) recommends indoor temperatures between 68-76° F, which is a pretty broad range. Most building thermostats follow a thermal comfort formula that was developed in the 1960s. Researchers at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands claim the formula is based on a 40-year-old, 154-pound male, not an average female office worker with a lower metabolic rate. Women and men generally have a five degree difference in temperature preference, the researchers found. But, alas, “personal environmental modules” with individualized temperature controls in office buildings haven’t gone mainstream yet.

Over a decade ago, Cornell University put the thermostat wars to another scientific test, finding that warmer office temperatures improve productivity. Researchers increased office temperature from 68° to 77° F, and found that typing errors decreased by 44% and output jumped 150%.

Finnish counterparts at Helsinki University of Technology ran their own study. Their findings: The highest office productivity occurs at temperatures around 22° Celsius or 71.6° Fahrenheit. Hmm, those test subjects closer to the Arctic Circle seem a bit more tolerant of lower temperatures.

If the productivity arguments don’t convince your facilities manager to set the temperature above polar levels, hit ‘em in the pocketbook. Most energy companies recommend keeping the AC set no lower than 78° in summer. According to MyEnergy.com, your company can save 1-3% in energy costs for each degree the air conditioning is set above 72.

Readers: Are you “hot and bothered” at work, or given the “cold shoulder”?

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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