Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Four Day Work Week

This is an awesome piece from Professor Goose, one of the smart folks over at The Oil Drum, a site dedicated to discussions about energy and our future.

The notion of our standard work week here in America has remained largely the same since 1938. That was the year the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, standardizing the eight hour work day and the 40 hour work week. Each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday workers all over the country wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast and go to work.

But the notion that the majority of the workforce should keep these hours is based on nothing more than an idea put forth but the Federal government almost 70 years ago.

To be sure it was an improvement in the lives of many Americans who were at the time forced to work 10+ hours a day, sometimes 6 days of the week. So a 40 hour work week was seen as an upgrade in the lives of many of U.S. citizens. 8 is a nice round number; one third of each 24 hour day. In theory it leaves 8 hours for sleep and 8 hours for other activities like eating, bathing, raising children and enjoying life.

But the notion that we should work for 5 of these days in a row before taking 2 for ourselves is, as best I can tell, rather arbitrary.

The idea of a shorter work week is not a new one to anyone old enough to have lived through the energy shocks of the 1970's. It should be fairly obvious to anyone interested in conserving oil that reducing the number of daily commutes per week would reduce the overall demand for oil.

There are about 133 million workers in America. Around 80% of them get to work by driving alone in a car. The average commute covers about 16 miles each way.

So let's stop and do some math...and I'll try to argue for 16 reasons why a four day work week is a good idea.

The math, as I see it, goes as thus (I welcome a discussion of these numbers, by the way...): 133,000,000 workers X 80% who drive alone = 106,400,000 single driver commuter cars each day.

106,400,000 X 32 miles round trip = 3,404,800,000 miles driven to work each day

3,404,800,000 / 21 mpg (average fuel efficiency) = 162,133,333 gallons of gasoline each day

Each barrel of crude oil produces, on average, 19.5 gallons of gas. (It is important to note that other products like kerosene and asphalt are produced from that same barrel.)

162,133,333 / 19.5 = 8,314,530 barrels of oil each day.

What this shows is Reason #1; the impact a 4 day work week could have on crude oil imports. I'm talking about perhaps a 40% reduction in the amount of oil we need Monday through Friday simply by rearranging our work week. No wonder this idea was utilized in the 70's.

But the clear fact that a 4 day work week would save such a precious non-renewable resource is just the first of 16 reasons why I think it's time to revive the idea of reducing the numbers of days we work each week.

Think about it.

Read all 16 Reasons:
The Four Day Work Week: Sixteen Reasons Why This Might Be an Idea Whose Time Has Come

That's Right


Thanks to Fanny B for the 4 shot.