Is This a Game Changer in the Debate Over the Four-Day Work Week?

The Valley of the Sun may be ground-zero for the debate over the four-day work week. (Photo illustration by Dreamstime).

Get ready for another big push for the four-day work week.

Last month when my colleague Lance Haun asked, “Whatever Happened to the Four-Day Work Week?” he noted that, “while the public sector has continued to embrace the four-day work week, private corporations have been hesitant.

This seemed backward, he reasoned, because generally these kind of HR and workplace-changing policies bubble up from private industry, not from the work-rule intensive, adverse-to-change public sector.

And even at that, the list of cities and municipalities that had embraced the benefits of a four-day work schedule wasn’t particularly impressive – usually places like Winston-Salem, N.C., Westminster, CO, and Indio, CA.

Well, the four-day work week argument may be getting ready to heat up now that a little bit bigger player is entering the debate, according to the Arizona Republic:

Thursday could become the new Friday for thousands of Phoenix city employees in an effort to save money and keep workers happy.

Phoenix officials are considering mandatory Fridays off for administrative employees but would exempt those who support functions that can’t be shut down such as water-plant employees, aviation workers and public-safety staff.

If approved, Phoenix would become the largest municipality in the state and the country on a mandatory four-day schedule, where employees typically work 10-hour days with Fridays off.”

Not surprisingly, a number of smaller Arizona cities in the Valley of the Sun are already on a four-day work week, including Mesa and Peoria. And going to this kind of a schedule can save money.

According to the Arizona Republic,” Mesa saved about $53,000, or 8.4 percent of its energy costs, by closing 10 buildings on Fridays,” during the first eight months they were on the four-day work week schedule.

Why can’t more private employers make it work?

More importantly, if a city the size of Phoenix – fifth largest in the United States – can make a four-day work week work, why can’t even larger cities, states and municipalities? Better still, why can’t more private employers make it work, too?

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My colleague Lance Haun addressed this in his June post when he commented on the rigidity of public worker schedules being helpful to putting a four-day work week into place. This isn’t nearly as prevalent in the private sector, he noted, and that’s why private employers haven’t been as quick to embrace the concept.

Well, maybe that’s true, but then again, maybe the benefits of having workers on a more flexible and non-traditional work schedule just haven’t been as clear cut for private employers as they have been for public sector managers struggling to deal with tax revenues that have been steadily falling as our economic struggles continue. After all, isn’t a four-day work week a lot better cost-saving option than another round of furloughs?

And that brings me back to my original point: if a city as large and complex as Phoenix can make a four-day work week a viable option that balances productivity and cost savings, why can’t more private sector businesses give it a go?

In other words, Phoenix and Arizona may be getting ready to pull us into another nationwide debate over this concept, and I say it’s about time, because the four-day work week is an idea whose time has clearly come.

John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.