A 4-Day Work Week Sounds Like a Great Idea, but Would It Work?

Affluent investors are on board with Google co-founder Larry Page’s proposition for a rethink of the 40-hour work week.

Jul 19, 2014 at 2:16PM

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Wealthy Americans overwhelmingly credit their hard work for their financial success. Working 9-to-5 (and then some) is embedded in the national consciousness as one of the foundations to achieve the American Dream. But Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page has rekindled discussion about the efficacy of the traditional 40-hour work week.

"If you really think about the things that you need to make yourself happy -- housing, security, opportunities for your kids," he said at a recent event, "the amount of resources we need to do that, the amount of work that actually needs to go into that is pretty small. So the idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people's needs is just not true."

Affluent investors recently surveyed by Spectrem's Millionaire Corner are certainly on board with Page's proposition. Seven in 10 advocate the concept of a four-day work week. Women especially are keen on the idea, with 82% for it, compared with 62% of men.

Business owners, not so much. Less than half said they thought a four-day work week is a valid idea, although corporate executives are more enthusiastic (56%).

How would this four-day work week play out? Three-fourths of Millionaire Corner survey respondents envision four 10-hour days versus four eight-hour days. Almost twice as many women as men (31% vs. 17%) favor the four eight-hour day approach, while men overwhelmingly favor the four 10-hour days.

The end of the 40-hour work week is certainly an irresistible concept for many. "Most people, if I ask them, 'Would you like an extra week of vacation?' They raise their hands, 100% of the people," Page told his audience. "'Two weeks vacation, or a four-day work week?' Everyone will raise their hand. Most people like working, but they'd also like to have more time with their family or to pursue their own interests."

Job flexibility is one of the factors workers value most in a job opportunity. A Pew Research study found that Gen Xers, especially, considered it "extremely important to them that their job allows time off to meet family, or to tend to child care needs."

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H.G. Wells. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Someday, perhaps, we will all be like the Eloi. In the film version of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, the time traveler discovers a distant future race whose days are spent in blissful idleness. "So this is man's future," he ponders, "to bask in the sun, bathe in the streams, and eat the fruits of the Earth, work and hardship forgotten. Well, and why not?"

Well and why not, indeed. The slacker Eloi were fodder for the cannibalistic Morlocks.

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Millionaire Corner has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Google (A and C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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