No Time to Lose: A Search for Work / Life Balance

Utah is going to a 4-day workweek to save energy by notimetolose
July 5, 2008, 12:23 pm
Filed under: environmentalism, ideas, news articles | Tags: , , , ,

An interesting article submitted by Monika outlining the pros and cons of a four day work week, recently adopted by the US state of Utah.


Utah is going to a 4-day workweek to save energy
By MIKE STARK, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, July 3, 2008 (AP)

(07-03) 11:15 PDT Salt Lake City (AP) —

Starting next month, it will be “TGIT” for Utah state employees. As in: “Thank God It’s Thursday.”

In a yearlong experiment aimed at reducing the state’s energy costs and commuters’ gasoline expenses, Utah is about to become the first state to switch to a four-day workweek for thousands of government employees. They will put in 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday, and have Fridays off, freeing them to golf, shop, spend time with the kids or do anything else that strikes their fancy. They will get paid the same as before.

“One of the jokes is that one of the biggest benefits will be for golf courses,” said Ryan Walker, 49, an information technology director. He said he is looking forward to tackling items on his long-neglected “honey-do” list (As in: “Honey, do this” and “Honey, do that”); camping; and traveling more around the state. The order issued by Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman will affect about 17,000 out of 24,000 executive-branch employees. It will not cover state police officers, prison guards or employees of the courts or Utah’s public universities. Also, state-run liquor stores will stay open on Fridays.

The compressed workweek in Utah — whose motto is “Industry” and whose official symbol is the beehive, representing thrift and perseverance — could prove inconvenient to those who need to use state services and find certain offices closed on Fridays.

Also, some parents may have to rearrange their child care to accommodate their longer hours, and bus and commuter train schedules might have to be adjusted. But many are excited about the idea.

“I’m thrilled,” said Rose Kenworthy, 58, an executive secretary at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. “Now I can do anything I want. I can have lunch with my friends, spend time with my grandchildren or just chill out.”

Sheldon Wood, 48, who writes property tax software, plans on using his three-day weekends to go into the mountains to hike and bike with his wife, also a state employee.

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. The state will also save on gasoline used by official vehicles, but authorities have not figured out how much.

The Department of Environmental Quality estimated employees in six buildings alone will save themselves more than $300,000 spent on gas to commute to work.

The four-day workweek could also be good for the environment.

“We feel like we can reduce the CO2 or the ozone by around over 3,000 metric tons, as well as have an impact on our air pollution,” said Kim Hood, executive director of the Department of Administrative Services.

In addition, the governor said the new schedule could help recruit younger workers who prefer a three-day weekend.

State officials will evaluate the program after a year and decide whether to extend it.

Because of the downturn in the economy and $4-a-gallon gasoline, many states are looking at cost-saving measures, including expanded telecommuting, compressed workweeks and more flexible schedules.

“Everyone’s going to keep a close eye on it and see what happens in Utah and whether they can demonstrate employee effectiveness and the energy savings, too,” said Leslie Scott, executive director of the National Association of State Personnel Executives, based in Lexington, Ky. Many Utah state offices will extend their hours and stay open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. so people can use government services before or after work.

And residents are being encouraged to use the Internet for hundreds of ordinary services, such as automobile registration renewals.

As for such things as hazardous spills and calls from Medicaid recipients who need approval for medical procedures, “certainly there are people
who are on call 24-7 now, and those people will continue to be on call 24-7,” the governor’s spokeswoman said.

Natalie Smith, 38, who works on a state arthritis program, supports the governor’s push to make government more environmentally friendly, but said the change will mean juggling schedules with her husband to take care of their two young children.

“We’re not exactly sure how we’re going to do it,” she said. But she added that it will be nice to have Fridays to visit the library or the zoo or
run errands.

Debra McBride, a Medicaid specialist who has been working four 10-hour shifts a week for about 20 years, said it is harder to make doctor’s appointments and do other errands Monday through Thursday, and working longer hours can be rough.

“After working 10 hours in a day,” she said, “I don’t do anything after I get home.”

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi Milena,

Actually the Utah 4-day week is a very bad idea for many reasons which I’d be glad to chat with you about on the phone. I can also send you some reasons why it’s very problematic. I discussed the issue on Utah Public Radio last week.



Hi John,

I’m very interested in your perspective! Please do send that info along! I’d really appreciate the chance for other readers to be privy to your rebuttal, as well.



Hi Milena,

In a nutshell, this is mandatory and a disaster for many families with children. can you imagine leaving kids in daycare 11 hours or more a day. Secondly, people will rely on the fastest transport to and from work because the day is already so long. they will go by car instead of walk, bike or use public transit. third, it will damage their health. During the long days they will sit longer, exercise less, eat more fast food
and be more stressed. Fourth, their home lives will be intensely stressful during the longer workdays. fifth, there is no evidence they won’t drive on the fifth day–in fact, in many cities Saturday is the most congested day of the week. Sixth, another guest on the public radio program I was on said one good thing about this was that people could take extra jobs on their days off! In other words they can work 50 plus hours a week and they will still commute every day. He thought that was a good thing and said some people were already starting to do it in Spanish Fork, the town the experiment that impressed the governor was based on. Finally, Spanish fork, Utah is totally dissimilar to urban America–it is too small to have long commutes and has fewer mothers that work because the town is almost totally Mormon.

I would support four eight-hour days and even nine for those who want them but this is not the way to go. We need to think holistically about these things.



This is truly disturbing =-(… Thank you for filling me in. I really only glanced at it, and only looked at it [very, very briefly] through the lens of my own life: a very short bus ride or reasonably long walk to work, work long days already, no dependents… etc. I also didn’t realize it was mandatory. And I was especially unaware of the gender problem based on the demographic. I thought it was odd that Utah would try something different, but I didn’t do “the math”, so to speak. The article I read and re-posted talked about telecommuting, and things like that… it didn’t raise points in the way you did.

Would you mind if I re-posted this summary in the comment section of the blog relating to the post? The points you raise need to be communicated as far and wide as possible, and while I realize 1) you’re already doing this and 2) there aren’t necessarily that many regular visitors to the blog, one thing I’ve noticed about blogging is that it pops up on google searches quite quickly. Posting it in just one more place will help people get access to this important info, as I’m sure you know.

Thanks again for taking the time – I really appreciate it!!



sure, Milena, I’d be honored if you posted the comments. I hope I wasn’t too preachy and it’s true that for people in your situation it would not be a bad thing. I would not oppose it if it were voluntary. thanks so much,



Oh no! Not preachy at all… and I say that as someone highly attuned and adverse to that tone.

Thanks again for taking the time to share this with me… and with other people visiting this blog. I appreciate your perspective.


Comment by notimetolose

i love your school

Comment by tyler yates

Really? Um, thanks! I don’t know what school you’re referring to, exactly, but it’s all cool 😉
Thanks for your enthusiastic comment!

Comment by Milena

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: