Utah Changes Course on Four-Day Workweek

We’ve written about the Utah government’s move to a four-day workweek on this blog before. But if the opposite of "Back to the Future" is "Forward to the Past," then I guess that’s what the Beehive State is doing now, as it plans to once again use the five-day model like everyone else. As this article from the Deseret News conveys, the move — initially launched by former Gov. (and current presidential candidate) Jon Huntsman — was expected to save $3 million. The move hasn’t realized those savings, however. I guess you could throw that in the "Well, it was worth a shot" file.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced he was ending Utah’s four-day workweek as of Sept. 6 in a letter to state workers.

"Most certainly, this decision will generate mixed feelings," the governor said in the letter released early Wednesday evening by his office, calling the return to a Monday through Friday schedule "the best alternative to balance both customer and employee needs."

Herbert’s decision follows action by lawmakers last month to override his veto of a bill requiring state agencies to reopen on Fridays. The bill would have allowed agencies to keep some employees on a workweek of four 10-hour days.

But staying open longer hours and reopening Fridays carried a price tag of some $800,000 that was not funded by the Legislature, the governor said after the veto override. His letter said the decision to return to eight-hour work days was necessary to "comply with legislative mandates and remain within budget constraints."

It was former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. who instituted the four-day workweek in 2008 as a cost-saving measure. Huntsman had hoped closing offices on Fridays would cut some $3 million from the state’s energy bills, but an audit found the savings fell far short of that goal.

Herbert said the new hours of operation for state offices, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, will take effect Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day. He said in the letter he hoped that would be enough time for state workers to make the needed adjustments to their personal and professional lives.

"This transition will undoubtedly require a spirt of cooperation from all employees, so please know I personally appreciate everything you do on behalf of the people of Utah," the governor wrote. 

Utah’s Four-Day Week Not Yet Yielding Big Results

We published a post last June about Utah’s public employees moving to a four-day work week in an effort to save on energy costs. At the time, gas prices had peaked and it seemed interesting — a possible archetype for similar moves across the nation. So far, however, the results have not been as pronounced as they hoped:

Several unforeseen issues, such as extreme temperatures, employee habits and workers coming in on the occasional Friday, made such a large amount of savings an impossibility this year, she said.

Michael Hansen, strategic planning manager for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, calls the lower savings "lessons learned."

"We made all these estimates and assumptions, and it looks like we were optimistic," he said. "We thought it would be easier, but there were all these weird little things."

He said he has a draft report prepared with actual figures showing how much the state has saved thus far, but it has not yet been approved for release.

The initiative was implemented with little to no input from state employees, lawmakers or residents, but (Gov. Jon) Huntsman has worked to make the environment a top priority, even though many in the Legislature look at global warming as a farce.

The initiative moved 17,000 of the state’s 24,000 employees from working five, eight-hour days to four, 10-hour days.

Utah First to Move to Four-Day Work Week

The land of pioneers, Sundance, and enough salt to callously murder millions of slugs has now become the first state government to move to a 10-hour, four-day work week (to take effect in August).

Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. recently made the declaration as an effort to cut heating and cooling costs and to reduce gas consumption.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Huntsman says 16,000 to 17,000 state employees will be affected when the change is implemented. He acknowledges some of those workers will have problems because of child care or transportation issues, but agency heads will be asked to spend the month of July working through those issues. 

"The energy efficiencies are significant that we can achieve," Huntsman said. "When you look at the totality of the needs, this is a good policy moving forward."