Utah government joins universities in switching to 4-day workweek

NWF   |   August 26, 2008

Until recently, most considered their commute to be nothing more than a necessary evil, if they considered it at all. But rising gas prices, air pollution and the awareness of carbon emissions are forcing changes in the ways they get to work. Recently, the Utah state government made the decision to switch to a four-day, 10-hour workweek to give employees a break in commuting costs. For the year-long introductory phase, about 17,000 of the state’s 24,000 executive-branch employees will have Fridays off, making up for the extra day by working longer hours Monday through Thursday.

Not only is this change likely to keep a few more cars off the road in a state that has weak public transit infrastructure, but it is also expected to save a significant amount of building-generated emissions by turning off most of the lights, heat, and air-conditioning in almost 1,000 non-essential government buildings every Friday. Preliminary reports estimate that shutting down six sample buildings for an extra day would lead to an annual CO2 reduction of more than 3,300 tons per year, and this number is likely to go up depending on which additional buildings are selected. Add to that the $3 billion in utility costs that the state hopes to save.

Dozens of universities and commercial organizations have already enacted similar measures. Florida International University switched to 10-hour days for a short period this summer, and Meridian Community College in Mississippi is changing its academic week to a four-day schedule by eliminating Friday classes.

Of course, if employees use their extra day to take travel-intensive trips, or simply run errands all over town in their vehicles, the amount of carbon emissions saved could be negligible. A longer weekend also requires that power companies serving the area make changes to their systems, which operate most efficiently when demand is steady, and plants are not often switched on- or off-line to accommodate variations in usage. Finally, the new plan is unlikely to reduce traffic congestion in the immediate areas surrounding government buildings during the Monday-Thursday workweek, as many employees will work the same extended hours.

The state plans to re-evaluate the program after the first year to see whether (1) the change is in fact friendlier to the environment, and (2) whether employees work as effectively on the new schedule.

See More:

Longer Days and Shorter Nights as Colleges Adjust to Soaring Energy CostsThe Chronicle of Higher Education

Dropping a Day to Save on GasInside Higher Ed

Utah Government Tries 4-Day WorkweekTIME