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Utah Abandons Four-Day Workweek, Not Savings and IT Goals

State legislators jettisoned the condensed 4/10 work schedule because of citizen complaints and meager savings.

This week marks the first full week of Utah’s return to a traditional five-day workweek for state workers after years of implementing the 4/10 schedule in which employees worked four 10-hour days with Fridays off.

Utah’s 4/10 workweek debuted in 2008, implemented by then-Gov. Jon Huntsman. Utah CIO Steve Fletcher told Government Technology at the time that two of the benefits of the condensed schedule would be saving more than $3 million annually in energy costs — because government offices would be closed an extra day each week — and luring top-notch IT workers accustomed to flexible hours in the private sector.

Officials said at the time that Utahans wouldn’t be hindered by the government’s shorter workweek thanks to the state’s improved online service offerings. But reportedly citizens and businesses complained to lawmakers about state offices being closed on Fridays and how that inconvenienced them. In the end, legislators jettisoned the 4/10 experiment primarily out of skepticism about its effectiveness as a money-saving endeavor, reported.

According to one late-2009 report, annual savings were $502,000 with 4/10s in place, well below the $3 million target.

The state Legislature passed a bill to end the 4/10s schedule, and Huntsman, no longer governor, is preparing to campaign in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Last Tuesday, Sept. 5, was the first day of the week that state employees were to return to the five-day schedule, but Monday, Sept. 5, was Labor Day, so they worked four days anyway. That makes this week the real return to the good-old days.

Dave Fletcher, Utah’s chief technology officer, said this week that the reversion to the five-day schedule doesn’t mean the state is giving up pursuit of its efficiency goals. “We’re not abandoning any of our objectives in terms of saving energy. We still have energy-saving initiatives, including our green IT initiatives,” he said. Prior moves have included data center consolidation and technology deployment that recycles heat energy.

And in spite of recent developments, attracting exemplary IT talent is still a goal. “We’ve returned to a five-day workweek, so that enticement is no longer there. So we’ll continue to provide an environment where we stress innovation and opportunity for IT talent to be able to perform and do things that they might not have the opportunity to do elsewhere,” Dave Fletcher said. He divulged no details on what those opportunities would entail.  

Studies suggested the four-day schedule did enjoy favor among state workers and some residents. When the Department of Human Resources Management surveyed employees for a 2009 report, more than 82 percent of respondents wanted to continue with the 4/10s. In another survey of 500 Utah residents, 62 percent of respondents thought the new schedule was a good idea, and 73 percent felt it was sufficient to meet their needs as citizens.    

Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.