Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How about a 32 hour work week?

The present fiscal crisis might be an opportunity to establish a 4 day, 32 hour work week as the norm. Think about having every weekend as a three day weekend. Four 10’s would work too for those businesses that need that much time from their employees.

In California state, county and local governments have implemented several furlough days a month (usually a Friday) to shorten the work week and reduce costs. It started as one day a month and increased (at the state level) to three days a month. It will only be a short time until a “standard” four day state week will be the norm, if only so that the public won’t have to remember which Fridays of the month most government offices aren’t open.

It looks like many businesses that can will also adopt a 32 hour work week or some other reduction as a way to reduce costs without having to lay off employees.

The principal problem for employees will be the reduction in gross pay by 20%. This brings up the philosophical question of why do people work.

If it’s for the money, what is the money used for? How much of the money is for things that are needed VS things we don’t need but only want? If we reduced our “wants”, how much could we have left for “needs”?

How much could be saved by not going to work one day a week? The transportation costs, lunch cost, some clothing costs, are obvious. But how about shopping and the TGIF lunch which tends to be more expensive than others?

For some day care cost might be reduced. It’s possible with an extra day off, homeowners could forgo a landscaper to take care of the yard by doing it themselves. What does that save?

Singles would have more time to play and families would have more time together.

And what would that day without pay really cost you? If you’re in the modest 25% tax bracket, you’re only losing 75% of that day’s pay (25% is already lost to income tax). And you’re not paying the 7.5% FICA tax for Social Security and Medicare (neither is your employer). Now you’re down to losing only 67.5% of the full day’s pay. Maybe similar reductions for state or local income taxes can be included also.

So what are you gaining? For less than that 67.5% loss, you’re getting a full day off. Your work week has been cut by 20% but your time off (Saturday and Sunday) has increased from two to three days, an increase of 50%.

If your business needs to remain open 5 days a week, consider alternate Fridays and Mondays off for half the staff – one four day weekend and one two day weekend.

This isn’t for every business or person but it could work for many if not most. In the early 1900’s six 12 hour days were the norm in manufacturing. When I was young, five 8 hour days and a 4 hour day on Saturday (no overtime) was the norm. So don’t get hung up on the idea that the work week is fixed.

It’s reported that managers often put in a 50 hour week. But note, this hasn’t kept a 40 hour week from being the norm for most businesses.

Try to think of reasons how it might be done and not reasons it can’t be done.

1 comment:

  1. more time with family..creats more jobs..schools and gov. officess.closed fridays saves states used to take one pay check to pay bills, now it takes two.The econemy will ajust to a 32 hr work it over 4 years,dropping 2 hrs per year..the law reads any thing over 32 hrs will be over time..just think every week end is a 3 day weekend..