Utilitarian Utah

I expected that eventually a thought-leading state or province would come to their senses and proclaim 4-day work weeks, but I wasn’t expecting Utah to be the first state to go to a 4-day work-week to save energy in the public sector. I just wish they had gone one step further and mandated 4-day work-weeks for all regular, full-time employees in the public and private sectors. That would have significantly reduced energy costs while making everyone a lot happier in the long one, once they adjusted.

Starting in August, about 17,000 of the 24,000 executive branch employees will shift to a four-day work week. Exempt will be police officers, prison guards, employees of the court, and employees of Utah’s public Universities. It’s a great start, since turning off the lights and AC in 1,000 of 3,000 government buildings will save $3M a year, plus up to 20% savings on gasoline expenses that are incurred by official vehicles. Moreover, employees of the Department of Environmental Quality alone will save more than $300,000 on commuter costs.

But I would have went two steps further. First of all, there’s no reason that University employees need to be exempt. Monday/Wednesday makes just as much sense as Tuesday/Thursday, and what student doesn’t want fewer classes? (Sure the classes are 25 minutes longer, but speaking as a former professor, having fewer classes sells!) Secondly, I would have made it mandatory across the board for regular employees of the public and private sector. Sure, many private sector business need to operate 7 days a week, if not 24/7, but why can’t regular full-time employees, who typically have office jobs, work four days instead of five? I know you need to keep the restaurant, drug store, and movie theatre open late, but your back office staff can still work four days a week, and I bet many of your employees, who are probably working odd shifts now, would prefer fewer, longer shifts and more consecutive days off. Your data center might need to be staffed 24/7, but do your accountants, procurement professionals, and janitorial staff really need to work five days a week? Think of the energy savings (and dollar savings) if the vast majority of the vast majority of buildings could be “powered down” for an extra day a week during the hottest (or coldest) hours of the day (when the most energy is expended)? Huge!

Plus, if North America went to a four-day workweek, the problems that are going to arise with only part of a state or country going to a four-day work week would be averted. If only part of the state, as in Utah’s case, goes to 4-day work weeks, then people who use child-care services are going to run into problems since most day-cares are set-up for people who work 8-hour days, and will only take children 10 hours a day, giving parents who work 8-hour days at most one hour to drop off and get to work and one hour to pick up. But if every one went to a 4-day work week, the day-cares would go to a 4-day work-week too, and then there’d be no issue with having to care for some children up to 10 hours a day, and some children up to 12 hours a day, which many daycares will not have the staff to do since more staff would be required for the same number of children.

So if you really want to help your company save money when costs are rising across the board, use your total cost of ownership skills to do a total cost of operations if your business were to switch to a 4-day workweek and sell the concept to upper management. Then, claim the savings generated as a Procurement initiative at bonus time. (And don’t forget to count the commuter savings generated for your employees. This reduces their cost of living, which reduces the size of the raise the company has to give them to actually give them a raise during a time of inflation. Effectively implemented 4-day work-weeks are savings across the board. Go for it!)