Green Business
Green Business

Could a Four-Day Work Week Actually Harm the Environment?

| by Sierra Club
By Della Watson

As the economic downturn continues, the four-day work week is surfacing as a possible solution to budget woes. The U.S. Postal Service may soon stop delivering mail on Tuesdays, California recently moved its state workers to a reduced-hour, four-day schedule, and Utah state workers began working four 10-hour days in August. For businesses and state institutions, the switch to a shorter week promises drastic cost-cutting: Utah initially predicted savings of $3 million per year. Proponents say four-day work weeks are a green option: Closed offices would sap less power and workers would commute less, cutting vehicle emissions. Sounds green, right?

But whether the environment wins in this scenario depends on how workers spend their time off. Critics say the four-day work week simply places the energy burden on the workers, since they'd be spending more time in their homes, using their own electricity, water, and heat. Unless they're spending that extra free time installing solar panels and harvesting rainwater, the shortened work week may not be so green after all. For those workers facing a pay cut, financial obligations might force them to take second jobs, which could mean more commuting.

While monetary concerns still loom, some employees are simply looking forward to having more spare time. If those work-free Fridays (or Tuesdays) are approached with a low-impact, less-is-more attitude, the change could have a positive impact on workers' lives. After all, spending the afternoon gardening, hiking, or just lying in a hammock is what the green life is all about.

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