Four-day week deemed a success

A yearlong Utah experiment with a four-day work week for state employees has ended with a positive verdict, even as its goals changed along the way.

In August 2008, then-Gov. Jon Huntsman (now US ambassador to China) issued an executive order changing the operating hours of state agencies. Offices were shuttered on Fridays and stayed open for 10 hours, rather than eight, on the other four days. The governor’s primary interest was lowering energy costs, says Mike Hansen, a strategic planning manager in the executive branch. (See Perspectives, CW, Summer ’09.)

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Energy consumption did decline by 10 percent during the yearlong pilot program, but cost savings were lower than projected. The state saw savings of $500,000 on energy, rather than the hoped-for $3 million, says Hansen. Another $200,000 was saved in operational costs.

Meanwhile, Utah’s leadership changed in the summer of 2009, and with a new governor came new priorities. According to Hansen, Gary Herbert (pictured) — who took office when Huntsman became an ambassador — was primarily interested in the customer-service angle of the experiment. A telephone survey found that 66 percent of Utah citizens liked the change — “they thought it was a good, forward-thinking initiative,” says Hansen — while 20 percent were indifferent.

Given the largely positive response, Hansen said Utah will continue its “4/10” model for the rest of Herbert’s term. He faces a special election in November 2010.