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Utah’s experiment with a four-day workweek for most state workers is over. The state of Utah first instituted the condensed workweek in 2008. The Associated Press reported that lawmakers ended the trial for the majority of state workers, saying it was not saving as much money as predicted. The state will return to a five-day workweek on Tuesday, September 5.
Todd Sutton, of the Utah Public Employees Association, said the adjustment back to a five-day workweek won’t be easy for many employees. Some people had arranged daycare schedules for the four-day week, while others were using their free Fridays to work second jobs or volunteer.
“Employees struggled because they adapted their lives to one schedule,” Sutton said. “And then it goes to a different schedule.” It’s clear that residents and leaders in Utah have mixed reviews on the sudden schedule change.
“I think it’s a horrible idea,” Larry Swift told the Salt Lake Tribune. Swift runs a business that sells construction equipment and was registering his car Thursday evening.”I think it’s really nice to have something open after 5 o’clock so you don’t have to take time off work, ” he said.
According to the Examiner, many state workers were unhappy with the change initially, but have adjusted to long days and three-day weekends. Many are unhappy about adding another day’s commute to their week. At the same time, some are pleased about shorter hours and more time with their families on a daily basis
Jon Huntsman, former Utah Gov., launched the “4/10″ workweek — 10 hours a day, Monday-Thursday — for thousands of employees in 2008, said the AP. The hope was to improve efficiency, reduce overhead costs and conserve energy at a time when budgets are tight and resources are dwindling.
A 2010 legislative audit showed the savings never materialized, in part due to a drop in energy prices. According to the AP, while Utah legislators as a whole found the four-day workweek unproductive, some cities in Utah saw the shorter workweek as a major success.
Mayor John Curtis, of Provo, Utah, said the 4/10 system improved employee morale and saved money. He said the four-day workweek might be more effective at a local level than with a state government. “People don’t have that same interaction with state employees … and the state needs hundreds of offices, while we only need one,” Curtis said.
Provo is one of the state’s largest cities with more than 100,000 people. The four-day workweek has been in place for years, with city offices open Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Utah isn’t the only state that has tried an alternative workweek schedule in lieu of the traditional five-day workweek.
In El Paso, Texas, Mayor John Cook, is proposing a year-round four-day workweek after experimenting with it during the past two summers.According to the AP, Cook said the projected savings for the city of about 800,000 people was more than $400,000 annually, primarily because of lowered utility and fuel costs.
Creative solutions are becoming more popular for governments facing tight budgets, said Rex Facer, a Brigham Young University associate professor who has studied the effectiveness of four-day workweeks. Lawmakers in both Oregon and Texas considered four-day workweek bills this year, but neither passed, the AP reported.
According to Facer, more than 200 cities have implemented or experimented with the four-day workweek on some level.