Danny De Gracia: A 4-Day Work Week Should Be On The Table Now - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.


With the cost of energy skyrocketing, it may be necessary for our state government to take drastic, short-term measures to alleviate the economic fallout of high fuel prices.

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We are living in bizarre and unprecedented times. Between the ongoing fallout of the Covid pandemic, the disruption of food products due to climate change or war, and now what seems like relentless inflation, living in Hawaii has never been so challenging.

Making ends meet in Hawaii was already hard for many years leading up to our present day, but now things are downright unbearable.  Our policymakers are often not aware of the great lengths that many locals go to just to survive between paychecks as a result of fuel prices, even among middle class households, let alone the poor and most vulnerable.

We already know many people in the islands have chosen to carpool to work and school to cope with gas prices, but few are aware of how some have to skip meals to save money, or hope for an office potluck or a family get-together just to have a pretext to bring some food home.

We don’t hear about how rising fuel prices have made it nearly impossible for some to balance rent, insurance prices, medical bills, or how even the slightest unlucky event can disrupt one’s entire budget and leave one begging others for money or help.

This is not dramatics; this is the Hawaii we now live in, where a precarious and delicate personal finance equilibrium must be maintained at all times, lest we lose our house, lose our car, lose our business, or lose everything in a flash.

For precisely these reasons, we need to do whatever we can to help offset or lower the impacts of inflation on Hawaii residents. One option that has been discussed for years is making use of a four-day work week, which some believe may not only lower energy costs as a result of having to commute fewer trips or occupy an office, but may have psychological benefits as well.

With a four-day work week, offices would be open longer than usual and full-time employees would work four 10-hour days, but they would save money with less commutes and their buildings would be shuttered for a day, sparing the costs of electricity. The idea has even been experimented with before, as in 2008 the state of Hawaii had a limited four-day work week pilot project.

This last legislative session, Senate Concurrent Resolution 147 brought up many of the benefits and prior precedent of a four-day work week and called for the creation of a task force/study group to look into the potential of exploring this concept further.

Unfortunately, the Senate Labor, Culture, and the Arts Committee canned the resolution, because the usual crabs-in-a-bucket departmental and union testimony warned that the idea is too hard, too complicated, and requires collective bargaining to accomplish.

Volunteers from the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa Church load 250 bags of food into the car trunks of community members in need, during their pop-up food distribution event in Kalihi, on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
Volunteers from the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa Church load 250 bags of food into the car trunks of community members in need, during their pop-up food distribution event in Kalihi last fall. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2021

But sometimes making a difference means doing things that are hard or unfamiliar to us, and we should not be quick to dismiss the merits of modified working hours if it can save people money.

The coronavirus pandemic revealed that we had the capability to perform certain functions of business and government remotely from home. This also changed the way many workers viewed their career choices, leading some to expect more flexible working options.

As we face the problem of inflation and rising energy prices, we should seriously consider the potential benefits we could have from the temporary implementation of four-day work weeks, possibly even combined with remote telework, if working five days is absolutely necessary.

This could be done on a voluntary basis at first, say for the duration of the summer, or until energy prices start to stabilize. Workers that need to drive longer commutes to work could opt to have four-day work weeks, or telework one day of the week, which would save money. If this turns out to be a viable concept, the Legislature could even introduce a series of bills in the next session which could make provisions for both government and private workers alike to have four-day work weeks or more options for remote work.

It seems strange that in an era of advanced communications and digital connectedness that we are still clinging to 20th century practices that are tied to outmoded, industrial age limitations. Certain professions require a physical, in-the-office presence, but many more jobs in Hawaii do not, and reducing our energy expenses and use of automobiles is a goal worth changing our policies and traditions over.

In Sri Lanka, things have become so desperate with fuel and food problems that their government has implemented a temporary four-day work week to give workers an extra day off to take care of their personal needs. How long will we have to allow things to decline in Hawaii before we start making concessions for our people?

We need to be more responsive to our locals’ needs and concerns. We can’t just shrug our shoulders and say “tsk, tsk, good thing I drive an electric vehicle and have good hours, too bad for the rest of you.”

Hawaii is reaching a critical point where we need everyone to exercise compassion and proactive efforts to mitigate skyrocketing costs. It’s time to start doing things we’re not used to doing and make concessions for our workforce.


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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.


Latest Comments (0)

Four day week? How about a three day week? I have a great niece who is a nurse and just switched to a hospital that offered a three , 12 hour shift, week. She loves it because it leaves more time to do projects at her home & to take short trips to visit family & friends. If I were 50 or 60 years younger, I would love it also.

Vandy63 · 2 days ago

10 hour shifts 4 days a week. There is a variety of ways to do this. You can have 4 10 hour days with 3 days off or work 2 10 hour days have a day off then do 2 more work days to get 40 hours! May help traffic a lot!

Richard · 1 week ago

My office has switched to a 4 day work week and not only is it working but I am able to schedule doctors appointments on my extra day off without requesting off and using up my limited PTO.

hawaiianreyes · 1 week ago

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