The four-day week

2,400 city employees in Birmingham, AL will be working four-day weeks this summer. The city believes this may save employees up to $1 million in gas expenses alone, or about five million pounds of CO2.

The motivation of the change was cited as fuel costs for both the city and its workers, but the move also highlights how we can reduce emissions and save money at the same time. In addition to the fuel savings consider the savings in keeping the office locked down: no air conditioning, no computers, lights, or elevators, all of which add up to more energy savings for the city. And the effect on employees is huge:

> “People are more excited about having a four-day week than they have been in the past about receiving a cost-of-living raise,” said Deborah Vance, Langford’s chief of staff. “It’s savings for the city, but it’s also actual savings realized by the employees.”

No wonder other cities are following the trend.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing is that you won’t find this analysis on any academic studies of how to reduce carbon. Perhaps its just a bit too radical, even if Birmingham is behind the innovation instead of Berkeley? Hey, this is American Dream! You work hard and prosper. You don’t want anybody telling you you can only work hard four days of the week. But when reality of high energy prices sets in its hard to argue with the rationale of these cities:

  • 20% less commuting (and carbon)
  • Significantly less energy use (the extra hours in the morning and evening will be worked at cooler times, so the A/C won’t need to crank so hard).
  • More people starting earlier in the day (and finishing later) reduces road congestion at peak times, improving mileage.
  • Perhaps everybody would use their extra day to get out in the sunshine and exercise and reduce obesity levels, thereby reducing health care costs in the city (or maybe this would increase emissions?

And can there be benefits to the business too? Some personal observations:

  • People do less work on Fridays anyway.
  • I’d be a happier employee (and therefore more productive) if I only worked four days a week.
  • You’d save money in energy bills.
  • Your Carbon Balanced Business offset wouldn’t cost as much.

Is anyone currently working a four day week, or thinking about it and care to share their experiences? Do TerraPass members think a four day work week is a reasonable “silver bullet” solution for climate change?

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pete