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June 27, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Energy Costs Push Utah to Four-Day Workweek

Filed under: General HR Buzz10:13 am

Hey, Utah made the headlines . . . Soaring energy costs has prompted the Utah state government to announce it is moving to a four-day workweek, making it the first state in the nation to do so and perhaps signalling the start of a wider trend. Gas prices racing past $4 a gallon has creating an unprecedented financial burden on many workers. Similarly electricity and natural gas costs continue to rise making it ever more expensive to keep the lights and machinery on and office buildings heated or air-conditioned.

On June 26, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman announced the Working 4 Utah initiative. Beginning in August, state government service hours will be extended from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. State administrative offices will be closed on Fridays, with the exception of essential public services.

“We live in a dynamic, ever-changing environment and it’s crucial that we take a serious look at how we can adapt and maintain our state’s unparalleled quality of life,” said Huntsman in a statement about the program.

Huntsman’s office estimates that 1,000 of 3,000 state buildings will be closed on Fridays, cutting energy costs by about 20 percent.

It’s only a matter of time before other state governments follow in Utah’s footsteps, says Susan Seitel, president of WFC Resources, a Minnetonka, Minnesota-based consulting firm.

“Minnesota is looking at this too,” she says. “This is absolutely the beginning of a trend.”

Many state governments, as well as companies, recognize that moving to a four-day workweek not only helps save energy costs but also appeals to younger workers, she says.

“It solves so many problems—it reduces the carbon footprint, saves on commuting costs, makes companies look more responsible and gives people more flexibility,” Seitel says.

Utah will evaluate the initiative for a year to allow for adjustments in the future.

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