Utah Four Day Work Week Environmentally Friendly

Not sure whether you would consider this a dream come true or not, depending on the hit your bank will take, but Utah has become the first US state to make it mandatory to take a three day weekend. Their guise is for environmental friendliness, but I think we can all see through that.

Governor Jon Huntsman, a first-term Republican, has introduced the change, which will affect the majority of state employees, in an attempt to reduce the state’s carbon footprint, increase energy efficiency, improve customer service and provide workers more flexibility. “The reaction (from the public) has been very much a willingness to give this a go,” he says.

The four day work week is not as uncommon as I first thought, with forms of it popping up all across the US. The USA Today article notes that “The four-day work week is fairly common among city and county governments…” and it continues:

Jacqueline Byers, director of research at the National Association of Counties, says the four-day work week is gaining in popularity among county governments. Marion County, Fla., has a mandatory four-day work week for employees; Oconee County, S.C., and Walworth County, Wis., have it for road work crews, while Will County, Ill., has it for the auditor’s office. Oakland County, Mich., is seeking volunteers for a four-day work week, and Miami-Dade County, Fla., and Suffolk County, N.Y., are moving toward it, she says

It is a rather drastic measure, cutting an entire day out of a work week, but one that is sure to make a big impact. While in the months to come – the new system is set to go into effect on August 4 – I’m sure we’ll see statistics explaining what the cutback has done specifically for the environment, but there is more. Such a measure, already seen to be working throughout smaller counties and cities, is another example of how local and individual changes are having large impacts.

There will obviously be some immediate negative impacts. “One thing that has to be changed is the level of expectation from taxpayers, because they’ve always wanted five-day access,” Byers says. “They have to adjust to offices that are open longer on weekdays, but closed on Fridays.”

In addition, longer work days will create problems for those dealing with public transport and childcare, but the Utah government is looking to have these issues ironed out before the August 4th start date.

In fact, Rex Facer, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University whose research team is studying the four-day work week concept, believes that such a change will have impacts on the work-life balance as well. “More and more young workers are entering the work force,” Facer says. “They’re looking for ways to enhance their work-life balance. Alternative work schedules offer more of this work-life balance than do traditional work schedules.”

So all in all, I can hardly see where this can go wrong!

credit: Bree D. at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

  1. uhh..

    Seriously? Just an example of lax work ethic. I can barely get the work done I need to on a 5 day work week. I would rather have a normal work week and not come in on Friday if I was studious.

  2. Brooke

    This seems a little silly to me. I think a better idea would be to go back to no business’ open on Sundays. I can see this idea working better as only four long days per week per person, but the business still being open five days a week. Americans need to spend more quality time with their children, they need to see their kids for more than two or three hours a day. If people want to be more environmentally friendly then they should take public transportation, or walk or bike to work. Even bringing lunch to work or walking to a nearby sandwich shop instead of driving to lunch would help.

  3. RD

    I think the 4 day work week is a good idea. I think however implementing it correctly is a tough thing to pull off. I know that I would still want 5 day availability if I was on a 5 day work week. My thoughts to address this is to have the office’s open 5 days and just schedule folks to work 4 some work M-T some work T-F and maybe some work M,T,T,F.

    I know this would most likely not have as large of an affect on the footprint but it would still rduce the energy demands and spread it out accross the week why still meeting the 5 day workers needs.

  4. Jim DeBerg

    I do not think it will achieve the environmental goal unless everybody stays home on their day off. The county of which I am a resident tried this a few years ago and found that traffic + smog was worse because the workers were out and about all day. The reverted to the 5 day work week.

  5. Don

    2 days off a week just isn’t enough. It takes 3 days for someone to completely relax and detach themselves from the stress of work. That means that most people only get the chance to unwind during a regular vacation (something many people NEVER get). 3 days off a week, even if you have to work four 10 hour days, is much better for people than 2 days off.

  6. Jacob

    There’s something important missing from this article: HOURS.

    Most places that do 4 day work weeks require their workers to put in 10 hour days instead of the regular 8. That way you get the same amount of total work hours, but with 1 less day.

    Ive personally worked this schedule before, and I have to say, its not that bad. There are some days where its annoying because you lose a lot of your free time after work, but when that 3 day weekend comes along, its always worth it.

    Besides, I dont know about you, but even working 8 hour days, I cant ever seem to get to my bank when theyre open anyway. I dont think 10 hour days would change that.

  7. darius

    Thats something I’ve always said would be a better solution for everyone. Its not uncommon to work more than your daily 8hr cycle. My days alone with the dayjob last around 10-11hrs….4 days x 10hrs still gets in the recommended daily dose. Hopefully this spreads!

    Props to Utah 🙂

  8. Commonsense

    If the lights are on in a building for (4) 10 hour days or (5) 8 hour days, isn’t that still 40 hours of energy needed? How does this help the environment?!?

    This is just a ploy to get government workers another day off!

  9. Bob

    I’ve been doing the whole 4 day work week for about 3 years now. Its pretty great. The worst part though is the 10 hour days. I get to work at 7 and dont leave until 6. My productivity went up when I started the 10 hour days. Fewer days to putt around in the morning and afternoon means increased work time. Its also great if you can work it to have 4 day weekends every other week. I get 2 Mini Vacations a Month plus I’m able to work those long weekends into my anual leave so I’m able to have 2 long vacations a year. It is definatly a good idea.

  10. Brian

    I think this is a stupid idea. It seems to boil down to a “Looks good on paper” type of deal. Its hard enough to coordinate across the time zones, but now coordinating across the days of the week? If they staggered the 4 days, where some people work M-Th and others work T-F, it could work, but shutting down from Friday only spells heartaches.

  11. Green

    It will be interesting to see how this ends up working out in practice. Personally, I would love a 4 day work week to be standard nationwide. We need to catch up with the European work vs. life balance to improve American quality of life.

  12. Kate Koz

    None of you are thinking of the economical impacts of this idea. Restaurants, stores, transportation serives all depend on five day weeks to stay afloat. This messure will be depleting the income of urban businesses but 20%. All that jsut to save some money on gas to the office, which will just be spent on gas to other areas instead. Use your brains.

  13. PetieG

    I’m all for it… Want to improve the economy? Give people 3 day weekends… what do you think they’ll be more likely to do? Go out to eat, to the movies, take a weekend trip, go out and party one more night, stay home rent a movie, do more grocery shopping, EXERCISE, have more sex, … benefits, benefits, benefits. Heck, the Commodities exchange shortened their hours after 9/11 to close at 2:30PM (i think that’s the time they close) — and they’ve decided to keep them… Bring it on at a national level … let us all spend our money on our lives, rather than work for all of it!!!

  14. Ross

    Katie’s got a point: in largely commuter cities, the downtown shops are already on shortened hours. Remove a day, and you remove revenue from already-struggling businesses.

    And no, people won’t “just go” downtown; these businesses are typically out of the way or too far away to “just go”. Besides, because no one really comes downtown (unless there’s an event of some kind), these businesses are either closed or have sincerely short hours on the weekend.

    I appreciate the sentiment of the 4-day workweek, but the truth is, I can’t imagine it will buy us anything except shorter evenings, bleaker urban areas, and ever-higher output expectations.

    As a point of facetiousness, I got it: Let’s start a company-funded stimulant distribution program, and start working 40 hours straight! Yes, that seems better still! 5 day weekends? Sign me up!

  15. Megz

    I have seen a lot of things on having a 4 day work week. The general consensus is that employees are much happier, and productivity improves. Several other countries have had employment options like this for much longer.
    The Kellogs cereal plant used to implement a work situation similar to this from 1930-1980. Employees liked it very much because it gave them more time with their families. Of course this was during the depression, and the reason Kellog did this in the first place was to give more jobs to more people.
    As far as productivity increasing – think of how much time it takes you to get into your groove every morning when you get to work, and how often times you quit being productive before the end of your work day. Lengthening 4 days and cutting out that 5th day cuts out on this time. Also, it cuts out the travel time to and from work of an extra day.
    I currently work that type of schedule, and I love it! I work nearly 10 hrs a day for 4 days, and it gives me a whole other day I can be outdoors doing the things I love, and getting home a couple hours later on my work days doesn’t have much of an effect on my home life.

  16. Omar

    Even more important to achieving work-life balance than the number of days worked is the number of hours worked in a week. If the work week is going to be shortened, employers and employees should share the daily burden by reducing the work week by four hours so that the day only has to be one hour longer during the week.

    Getting through the workday is hard enough as it is.

  17. tania

    i don’t see how anyone could complain about this or say its laziness. Work/life balance is so important. Of course there will be difficulties as with any new implementation but to complain is a waste of time. Its about making adjustments and then it will work. I would much rather work 4 long days (nothing different than what I already do) than work 5 shorter. And to be quite honest, uhhhh, what truly needs to change is the level of expectations regarding what employees need to accomplish in their work day. Some places are decent but I’ve experienced ridiculous expectations, which I’ve met while sacrificing my own sense of peace and happiness to meet those expectations. I’ve had to learn to put myself first and that is also what having a 4 day workweek is about. I wish they made it national.

  18. tania

    You guys are missing the point. Restaurants and businesses that give their employees a four day workweek is the point. They can still open 7 days a week but they can have employees staggered through the schedule.

    Owners of businesses will obviously have to make up their own mind about their days and I’m assuming most will want to stay open all 7 days as usual. Obviously they can’t afford to close and expect the same amount of money. As it stands however, most business owners chose to stay open as much as possible already for the same reason. The point is to offer the employees that opporunity. The best offer is give the choice to the employee so that the complainers can stick to their 5 day and whoever wants 4 days can do so too.

  19. larry

    but what is missed here is the fact that people are not productive working over 8 hours a day. study after study has proven this. so if there is any “savings” it will be out weighed in less productivity and more mistakes. if they really want to save energy (which cannot be done by having a building occupied the same 40 hours a week but doing in in one less day, you still use the same amount of energy) they would do a 32 hour work week. they would also find that people can get just as much done in those hours if they cut out unnecessary meetings! and having 3 days off would lead to happier, healthier and more productive employees.

  20. Carmen Rivera

    On April 26, 2008, the New York Times reported that the State of Ohio already had a 4-day workweek for state employees and was requiring a return to the 8 a.m. to 5 a.m. Mondady through Friday workweek. Apparently, the needs of the public and other state offices were not appropriately taken care of. 4-day workweeks, flex-time is great for individauls life styles but not for the public. With a nation and economy in decline; I don’t believe this is the time to indulge individuals lifestyles.

  21. Chris

    Great, as if American’s social workers weren’t fat and lazy enough, now they get another day to gorge themselves sitting in front of their televisions to fatten up even more. How in the world anyone thinks that less productivity is going to result in higher efficiency is beyond me; it will never happen. Now the public, who doesn’t even have the luxury of that other day off, has even less time to get their administrative needs served. Not only because they don’t have that extra day, but now every other day of the week is going to have an increase of 5-20% of additional people that would otherwise be served on the 5th day.
    They say that extra two hours a day will counter the one day of 8 hours, but I would be highly surprised if it would. You’re going to have your employees working longer days, which will result in more stress. Generally, people become stressed out when a bunch of small litter annoyances continually occur, so subjecting your workforce to two additional hours a day of the general public is going to cause issues.
    There’s almost no benefit to be had from this at all except “woo 3 day weekends!!” This doesn’t even help reduce labor costs, as you’re working everyone the same amount of time and offices are up and running equally as long. As far as the “green” to be had, it’s ludicrous to assume it’s going to have a major beneficial impact.
    Sure, it may reduce all state employees from having to drive to work 52days out of the year, but it enables them to have that 3 day weekend to take a trip to the lake or what-have-you. Regardless, the more time you allow a person for recreation the more they’re going to utilize it, and that could lead to an increase of travel time that won’t offset the reduction made by reducing the work week one day. Driving around taking care of errands, visiting friends, or any other activity that would otherwise be postponed, can now be taken care of each and every weekend.
    The possibly biggest impact this will have is enabling parents to pick their kids up from school on that Friday afternoon. Keep in mind this is the state of Utah, and the average family is a family of 4 or 5. Sure, it may not seem that significant, but allowing hundreds of people to drive their own automobile to pick up their children, who would otherwise use natural gas public transportation, are going to cause the biggest side-effect of all.
    When you look at the pros and cons to be had from allowing people an extra day off, it’s quite clear that whatever good can be gained will be so insignificantly beneficial that to even consider it’s implementation would be a waste of time. Instead, make the work day one hour longer, and give everyone a two hour lunch. This gives everyone a chance to relax during the middle of the day, take care of any pressing issues that may have arose in the morning (which if unable to be resolved until the end of the day, will create stress and anxiety that can distract the employee during their shift all day long), and allows everyone who gets off work @ 5pm, to get in and take care of business in that last hour. Like many legislative measures taken in Utah, it seems very little thought and public opinion were given at any stage of its indoctrination, and it was left up to a small group of like-minded parties who only sought to push for their own personal agenda claiming their position of status inherent of good judgment.

  22. E.K. Hanson

    Now this could work (4 day work week) if they changed a few other things all so. Let’s take the amount of hours kids spend in school. In most places in the world kids spend 10-12 hours a day in school with no 3 month summer break. So if they changed the hours kids spend in school to 10 hours a day 4 days of week also and no more summer break. How well would that work out. Or wait even a 12 hour school day 4 days a week how much would that cut down on child care if most of the worker were working 4 day 40 hour weeks. Isn’t the 8 hour school based around an 8 hour work day? The U.S. school system sucks, it mite get up to par with the rest of the world if they went 12 hours of for 4 days a week. We can not be a great country if we do not have great kids. Great kids become great adults.

  23. BB

    I’m not sure if this is good or bad. It sounds great to have a three day weekend, but at what expense. They say it’s environmentally friendly(nice thought)but it’s really to try and cut expenses for jobs. That could mean that employees could also lose a days pay. It just depends on if the hours are made longer or they leave them the same.

  24. Paullee

    To Commonsense: That is not correct that the energy used is the same. The HVAC delta for Friday far outweighs the additional hours added to M-Th where HVAC remains the same anyway for at least 12 hours for the early birds and late owls. Allowing Friday to be a few degrees warmer in the summer and a few degrees cooler in the winter spells $millions in overall savings for the state

  25. Stacey

    It’s all about working smarter not harder!
    I’m sure there are many reasons for this change…I’m a little disappointed to see that the “government” is the first sector to roll out
    What about the “real” worker bees

  26. Stacey

    It’s all about working smarter not harder!!!
    though a great concept, I wish that the government wasn’t the only sector testing this out…
    What about us real worker bees

  27. nikki

    I have often said that we should have a 3 day weekend, maybe for slightly different reasons to the above but I do agree with it. If only the rest of the world would do it.

  28. Christy

    A lot of you are missing the point. We are working 10 hour days. It isn’t fun. I would rather work the 5 8’s. We are not working 4 8’s.
    I have to be to work at 7 am and am not allowed to leave until 6 pm.

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