Culture At Large

Save Money, Save the Planet, Save the Sabbath: Adopt a Four-Day Work Week

Nathan Bierma

As you enjoy a holiday weekend, consider how nice it would be to have a three-day weekend every week. It may sound like a dream but it's become reality for state government employees in Utah. The state has saved $1.8 million and 6,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the past year thanks to a novel plan: giving all employees every Friday off. Workers are now required to work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour ones, and they report being less stressed, less sick, and more satisfied with the time they spend at home. Keeping government buildings dark on Fridays saves loads of energy and maintenance costs, and relieves rush-hour traffic. Other states, including New York, according to the New Republic, are doing the math to see if four-day work weeks would be a good move.

Ideas like this will only catch on for the most pragmatic economic reasons, not idealistic ones. But all I can think about are the idealistic reasons to love this arrangement, especially as a Christian.

First, one of the biggest idols in our culture is workaholism, and this can put a dent in it (though not, I realize, if everyone is on their BlackBerry at home all Friday long, which no doubt happens).

Second, if four-day work weeks really do cut down on stress and sickness, we'd be living life more fully, the way God intended us to.

Third, Friday could become a great day for church programs and volunteering.

Fourth, and most important, we could reclaim our Sundays as actual days of rest. For most Christians I know, Sunday has become a second Saturday—another rest-less day filled with errands, chores, and sports leagues. Giving Friday the job of being the second Saturday would make Sunday feel less squeezed.

I can think of numerous problems with four-day work weeks, mostly those ten-hour days. (I also realize this whole discussion is a sore subject to those who are out of work and praying for a full-time job.) But I like the idea and wish I could try it. So what do you think? Are four-day work weeks a better way to work, and a better way to keep Sabbath? Will they ever become the norm in North America?

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