My mother has the day off every other Friday, which I highly envy. She also works nine-hour days for the privilege, which I do not envy.

However, although the idea of clocking time has no appeal for me, I give her employer credit for trying to help employees gain greater control over their time by offering the compressed-week option.

As workforce demographics and cultures shift, and talent retention takes on more importance than ever, more employers seem open to moving away from the traditional Monday through Friday, eight-hour day.

Most famous is Utah, which in 2008 launched "Working 4 Utah," ushering in new state business hours - Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. But beyond Salt Lake, some 34% of employers offer some sort of compressed workweek benefit, up from 26% in 2008, msnbc.com reports, citing stats from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Steps in the right direction, I say.

However, the five-day, 40-hour workweek is so entrenched that "many if not all human resource policies and corporate financial reporting systems are built around and reinforce" it, Cali Yost, CEO of consulting firm Work+Life Fit Inc., told the website.

I can't believe that decades worth of work-life progress are being held up by HR policies and reporting systems. However, in a discussion at ebn.benefitnews.com, commenter Neil P. agrees with Yost. "Compressed workweeks do complicate the task of recording days off and holidays," he writes. "It moves you into counting work hours instead of workdays. It's a problem for some systems that are designed with days as the unit of measure."

Another commenter, MJSMKE, disagrees, though: "I'm not so sure that it has as much to do with HR professionals limiting this through policies, as it is that government regulations for overtime are still stuck in the 1930s and 1940s. It's a shame we can't get the government to realize that the world has changed."

Regardless of who's at fault that flexible and/or compressed workweeks aren't more mainstream, LPB comments that employers need to see the larger picture of the benefits such workday flexibility provides. "I have worked for an organization with a compressed workweek (four nine-hour days); employees were happier, took less time off for personal reasons and were actually more productive.

"The idea that people be physically at the worksite 40+ hours seems to generate the thought that those who come in early and stay late are demonstrating a desire to succeed (whether or not they are actually doing something valuable and productive). Since the economic downturn, companies have further reduced staff, and the expectation is that the remaining staff is expected to do more work. I seriously doubt that policies, procedures or systems are the deterrent to compressed workweeks. I would suggest that the corporate value system is the issue."

What do you think? What is preventing the spread of more flexible and progressive workday and hours policies? Is change in the way and time we work even necessary, or is the five-day, 40-hour system just fine as is? E-mail me your thoughts at kelley.butler@sourcemedia.com.

Send letters, queries and story ideas to Editor-in-Chief Kelley M. Butler at kelley.butler@sourcemedia.com.

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