After One Year, Jury Is Still Out on Utah's Four-day Workweek

Oil and other energy prices were still quite high when then Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. ushered in an interesting cost-saving innovation in August 2008: Thousands of state employees would work 10 hours a day, four days per week. The idea was to reduce energy costs by closing state office buildings on Fridays, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by state workers, who would make one less commute each week.

An internal analysis of the year-old program, according to the Associated Press, found that it cut the state government's energy consumption by 13%, which is nothing to scoff at. But the savings may be less than anticipated a year ago. The former governor, a popular Republican, anticipated saving $3 million out of a more than $10 billion budget with the four-day workweek in its first year, but early on, state officials said that target would likely be missed. Much of the reduction in savings came because it took some time to transition workers to the new hours.

The internal report did not offer any detail on the reaction of taxpayers, who found themselves with one less day to conduct business with the state. However, state employee surveys have also shown that most like the new schedule — absenteeism and overtime are down and customer complaints have steadily dropped. Even waiting times at the Department of Motor Vehicles decreased under extended hours Monday through Thursday.

A final report on the program is expected in October, and will reportedly help Huntsman's successor, Gov. Gary Herbert, to decide whether or not to maintain the program.

More for from Knowledge at Wharton on managing costs, see:

Half-a-Million Job Cuts: Is There a Strategy Behind the Layoffs?

As Layoffs Spread, Innovative Alternatives May Soften the Blow

Women Executives on Work/Life Balance: Flexibility, Networks, Outside Interests