Trending Now: Four-Day Workweeks -- These Can Work for Doctors Too

Jennifer Frank, MD


November 16, 2022

As someone who recently made the change to a 4-day work week, I would extol its many benefits. In our particular part of the country (Northeast Wisconsin), it is not uncommon for physicians or advanced practice clinicians to work 4 days, which equals roughly 32 to 36 patient contact hours. Of course, one patient contact hour can easily equal 1-2 hours of total work, so this is not equal to total hours worked. However, the general idea is that you are working one fewer day than is typical.

Medicine is a 24/7/365 gig, but most of us have call and coverage arrangements that afford us some weekends, evenings, and holidays off. The concept of a 4-day workweek for a physician is definitely different than it would be for someone in other professions as very few of us work a typical Monday to Friday 9-to-5 schedule. But, if you have the opportunity to negotiate a 4-day work week, here are some of the benefits you may enjoy:

  1. Guaranteed day for personal appointments. Whether the dentist, your own doctor's appointments, or a haircut, it can be challenging to find time during the week where you do not need to juggle appointments or a procedure schedule to make time to get your teeth cleaned. For me, this used to involve creative scheduling and remembering to block my calendar. It was a hassle to fit in my own appointments that needed to occur during regular business hours. With a dedicated weekday off, I know that I have regular availability to schedule anything from a massage to a mammogram without having to jump through numerous scheduling hoops.

  2. More availability for your family. As a working mom, one thing I have missed over the years is being easily able to attend cross-country meets, parent-teacher conferences, and field trips. Usually, the schedule for these events comes out too close to the actual timeframe to allow me to easily move patient appointments around. While I still am not able to attend every meet and conference, I am able to attend more than I have in the past and even am able to pick my children up from school or meet them for lunch.

  3. Schedule flexibility. My typical day off happens to be a Wednesday. My health system is flexible enough to allow me to move it around on occasion so that I do not need to take a vacation day if I am able to work a Wednesday instead of a Friday, for example, in a particular week. This makes it much easier to schedule long weekends or plan around vacations so that I have the choice to take a day off or just move around my day off. We are planning a family celebration next spring to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. Instead of using vacation time, I'm able to work a couple of extra Wednesdays in order to afford me the schedule flexibility I need for an extra-long weekend off.  

  4. Save money. Depending on your current work schedule, you may be able to save money with a 4-day work week. In addition to things like transportation costs saved by one fewer day commuting to and from work and one fewer lunch to buy, your availability to do things around the house, if you choose, can save you money in terms of landscaping costs, housekeeping, or grocery delivery services. This, of course, needs to be balanced against any loss of income you may have if a 4-day week also reduces your overall clinical productivity.

This list is not exhaustive as there can be many other benefits — even something as luxurious as sleeping in and drinking your coffee in your pajamas. If you have the flexibility and ability to trial a 4-day workweek, you may find that this growing trend offers you many unexpected benefits.

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About Dr Jennifer Frank
Jennifer Frank has the unbelievable privilege of being a family physician, physician leader, wife, and mother in Northeast Wisconsin. When it comes to balancing work and life, she is her own worst enemy because she loves to be busy and enjoys many different things. In her spare time (ha!), she enjoys reading suspense and murder mysteries as well as books on leadership and self-improvement. She also writes her own murder mysteries and loves being outdoors.
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