A Purpose for Every Time? The Timing and Length of the Work Week and Implications for Worker Well-Being
Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 4, pp. 53-74, May 2010
21 Pages Posted: 8 May 2010
Date Written: May 1, 2010
Would replacing the conventional work week with a four-day option benefit economic performance and well-being? In the framework of economics, the question is whether work week reform can make some individuals better off without making other individuals worse off in ways that do not hamper other goals such as efficiency, economic growth, and equity. Social and individual welfare outcomes would depend on whether reforming the work week involves shortening the length of the work day versus rearranging the timing of work. The “public good” case for a policy that induces shorter hours of work per employee is a logical extension from evidence of the adverse effects stemming from excessively long hours of work on workers’ stress, work/life balance and productivity per hour. A shorter work week may improve workers’ well-being if it creates more total employment opportunities; allows more free time to be used at employees’ discretion and control over work time; is accompanied by partial income replacement under states’ “work-sharing” programs; and is well targeted toward workers who prefer shorter hours than they are currently working. Given the heterogeneity of work hour preferences by stage of life-cycle, the most promising Fair Labor Standards Act reform proposals, from an individualistic standpoint, would be those ensuring that employers consider individual employee requests for flexibility in the number of hours over or the times when the employee is required to work.
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