Last summer, amid surging gas prices, Utah became the first state in the nation to mandate a four-day workweek for state employees.
A recent assessment of the program by state planners found the expected energy cost savings haven't materialized, but there have been unexpected boosts to productivity and worker satisfaction.
Sonia Smith is one of the 18,000 state workers who began a four-day, 10-hour workweek eight months ago. At first, she says, she was shocked and scared about the change. The state accountant is a single mom, and she worried about child care for her 10-year-old son. Now, Smith is a champion of the switch.
"I like having the three-day weekend," Smith says. "I like being able to have one day set aside to do everything that I need to do, and then the other two days where I can devote to my son."
Every Friday morning now, Smith volunteers at her son's school. She helps students with their spelling tests and relishes the extra time with her son. Smith's family and baby sitter adjusted their schedules to enable her to work the adjusted hours.
Smith is among the 70 percent of Utah state employees surveyed who now say they prefer the shorter workweek. Mike Hansen, strategic planning manager in the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, says one of the more surprising effects of this workday change is that employees are now taking significantly less leave.
"That's increased productivity — that's employees behind their desk more this year than the last two years, to the tune of 9 percent" less time off, Hansen says. Paid overtime is also down.
Read full story [NPR]