Amid the economic downturn and rising costs of gas and energy, the state of Utah took initiative on reducing its operational costs by mandating a four-day workweek in 2008. The western state required a majority of its state employees to start work earlier andleave later Monday through Thursday to fit 40 hours in four days.
The federal government standardized the traditional five-day workweek in 1938 with the Fair Labor Standards Act to protect workers from unjust wages and unreasonable overtime. Utah uprooted the traditional five-day workweek to save money and resources. Many state and local governments offer their employees a four-day workweek option, but Utah is the first to make it a requirement for 17,000 of its employees. The state’s ultimate goal for issuing a shorter workweek was to reduce its energy costs by 20 percent in 2015. So far, Utah has reduced its energy use by 13 percent.
Not only have the state’s energy costs decreased, but Utah estimates that because its state employees do not commute on Friday, they have saved nearly $6 million in gasoline. The program also reduced the state’s green house gas emission by more than 12,000 metric tons per year.
Some critics feared that a 10-hour work day could cause employees to be stressed, tired and frequently sick, but program participants discovered different results. Surveys conducted throughout the initiative revealed that there are fewer health complaints, and people are reporting less stress and taking fewer sick days. People also voiced concerns that longer work days could trigger people to exercise less and eat fast food more. Calming these worries, a survey found that only 20 percent of employees feel they eat more fast food, only 30 percent say they work out less and 30 percent say they actually exercise more since the change. Eighty-two percent of the employees surveyed feel content with the government’s new workweek structure.
Utah has saved $1.8 million since the start of its four-day workweek experiment. Operational costs have lowered dramatically and many employees have seen positive health results. Other benefits from the change include: increased volunteerism for outside activities, more time spent with families, and because state buildings now offer longer hours, Utah citizens can accomplish tasks, such as renewing a licenses at the DMV, during later hours.
If your company can provide support for working non-traditional hours and the services that your company provides are not confined by time, a four-day workweek might be a popular option for your team. The strategy, although not feasible for every organization, could prove to be a great solution for cutting costs and increasing employee morale in a down economy.
For more information on reducing workplace costs and strengthening employee morale, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.
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