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Utah's Four-day Workweek Experiment: Did It Work? Utah's Four-day Workweek Experiment: Did It Work?

Utah's Four-day Workweek Experiment: Did It Work?

by Andrew Price
April 15, 2009

Last August, Utah instituted a four-day workweek for 17,000 government employees. They started working four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. They all get every Friday off and their pay is unaffected. The hope was that, with many agencies closed on Friday, the state could save money on utilities:"Turning off the lights, the heat and the air conditioning on Fridays in 1,000 of 3,000 government buildings will save about $3 million a year out of a state budget of $11 billion, according to the governor's spokeswoman, Lisa Roskelley."So did it work? Yes and no. The energy savings have been less impressive than the state hoped because they can't figure out how to turn things off:"So far, energy use has been reduced-but only by 13 percent. Each of Utah's 900 government buildings is unique. State energy managers have to figure out how to turn everything off on Fridays-especially the massive heating and air conditioning units."But by every other measure, the new system has been hugely successful. Seventy percent of the workers affected like the change and the amount of time off they're taking is actually down significantly (because, presumably, overall job satisfaction is higher). There's also less driving on Fridays now, which helps the environment.And what are people doing with their time off? They invest in their children and build social capital. Robert Putnam would be proud:"Every Friday morning now, [Sonia] Smith volunteers at her son's school. She helps students with their spelling tests and relishes the extra time with her son. Smith's family and baby sitter adjusted their schedules to enable her to work the adjusted hours."In short: it's all gravy (if slightly less gravy than hoped for in energy savings). And we can assume the energy managers will eventually figure out how to turn the heating systems off and Utah will reap the full 20 percent energy savings soon.Other states have been watching Utah's experiment with interest. Are there any reasons not to do this everywhere?
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