The Four-Day Workplace Week
As Brad Plumer says, normalizing a four-day workweek, at least for particular jobs, makes a certain amount of some sense. It's cheaper for some employers. It uses less resources. Workers like it. But the big argument, in this time of energy concerns, is that "some 106 million Americans drive to work alone each day, an average of 16 miles each way. Cutting out one workday's worth of commuting would not only lower U.S. oil imports by 5 to 10 percent, it would also prevent thousands of traffic fatalities, as well as cut down on the costs of road maintenance, since people tend to drive less on weekends. And workers would see a real income boost by saving on gas. "
But a lot of the arguments that apply to the four-day workweek also apply to letting people work at home. Just as you can imagine a four-day workweek, you can also imagine a four-day workplace week. Friday, workers would work from home. They would still have access to e-mail. They would still be near a phone. But they wouldn't have to commute. The employer wouldn't have to run air conditioning or electricity or bring in a cleaning service. They would sleep a little later because they wouldn't have to prepare to go to work and they would make lunch in their kitchen and be able to pick their kids up from school.
There are definitely advantages to an office environment. Being near other people and seeing their faces and going out to lunch and talking to your boss have real benefits. But are they so dominant that we should be in an office environment during every moment that we are paid to work? It's hard, in an age of e-mail and cell phones and Gchat, to see why.
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