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Swampscott town hall trying out 4-day work week

Four-day workweek becomes reality in Swampscott; BC professor researches long-term impact
Four-day workweek becomes reality in Swampscott; BC professor researches long-term impact 02:50

SWAMPSCOTT -- Following the pandemic, the four-day workweek is starting to become more of an office reality.

A Boston College professor is now studying its effectiveness, while at the same time, the North Shore community of Swampscott is testing it out.

"I think this is right for Swampscott," said Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald believes the pandemic has offered an opportunity to refocus on families and offer flexibility.

"We want to make an investment in people," said Fitzgerald. "We want to give our staff a chance to find that work-life balance equity."

Fitzgerald said the number of work hours will actually go up.

Town Hall will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. On Wednesdays, Town Hall will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

At Boston College, Professor Juliet Schor is researching a slightly different way to do it.

"The important thing to say about these four-day workweeks is that they come with five-days pay," said Schor.

She said this study is not looking at a 40-hour, four-day workweek. Instead, working just 32 hours over the course of four days, which truly eliminates a day of work.

Schor is studying companies like Healthwise out of Idaho. They recently went to four days a week and Schor wants to fully understand the long-term impacts.

"How it affects the company, their economic performance, their costs, are people resigning less, are they taking fewer sick days."

Schor goes on to say this will have a big impact on life as a whole. 

"People are intensifying their work. They're cutting out the low productivity activities. They're reorganizing their meetings. They're going to fewer meetings. They're figuring out how to do things faster," she said.

But not everyone thinks the push to do everything faster is a good idea.

The president and founder of Elkordy Global Strategies, Mary Elizabeth Elkordy, said less work days could have a very negative impact.

"What needs to be done during the week, still has to be done within four days. Leaving for a lot less time to complete work," she said.

Elkordy believes employee happiness is less about the hours and more about the environment.

"It doesn't matter if you work 14 hours or you work two hours, if it's a toxic culture you're going to feel burned out either way," Elkordy said.

Back in Swampscott, workers are enjoying their culture of Fridays off.

"It's been exciting," said Swampscott Town Treasurer Patrick Luddy. "I never thought I would have a four-day work week. To have that free day on Friday has been really helpful to spend time with my family."

Another part of the equation for Professor Schor is going green. Schor said her studies have shown cutting down on the work week can dramatically lower carbon emissions, which may slow climate change.

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