4-day week seems to work well for Utah
Other states show interest in savings
SALT LAKE CITY - Six months after Utah became the first state government in the nation to adopt a four-day work week, the money-saving experiment is attracting interest from other states trying to ease their financial problems.
"Why? Three words: Massive. Budget. Deficit," said state Representative Michael Gianaris of New York, a Democrat who estimates his state would save $30 million by switching to a four-day week.
Because of New York's $15 billion budget shortfall, "there are a lot of painful decisions that have been put before us," Gianaris said.
Utah switched to a four-day week last year primarily to save money on electricity, gasoline, and other energy expenses. The change affected 17,000 state employees, who now work 10 hours a day, four days a week.
These days, employees have embraced the long weekends, and the public has grown accustomed to state agencies being closed on Fridays.
An interim report released last month by Governor Jon Huntsman shows that the initiative will cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12,000 metric tons, reduce gasoline consumption among employees by 744,000 gallons annually, and pump as much as $3 million into the economy from workers who have to spend less on gas. The state is also saving more than $200,000 on janitorial contracts.
Other states are taking note. Hawaii tried a limited four-day week this fall, and a similar program is underway in Washington state. Lawmakers in West Virginia and Virginia are studying whether a four-day workweek would make sense for them.
"Most states had an alternative work schedule for their employees, but I think Utah's effort really caused them to pull those policies out, dust them off and encourage managers and supervisors to allow their employees to do it," said Leslie Scott, director of the National Association of State Personnel Executives based in Lexington, Ky.
A hiring freeze and budget cuts have made it difficult to tell if Utah's shorter workweek will attract new job applicants. But many existing employees have found the schedule offers more flexibility.
The governor's office says its phones are ringing off the hook with states such as New Mexico asking questions about the four-day workweek.