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Utah's shrinking workweek

Will a four-day workweek be a boon or burden for working moms?

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By Suzanne Robitaille for Betty Confidential

This summer, Utah will become what experts say is the first state to institute a mandatory four-day workweek for most state employees, joining local governments across the nation that are altering schedules to save money, energy and resources.

Governor Jon Huntsman, a first-term Republican, introduced the change, which will affect the majority of state employees, in an attempt to reduce the state's carbon footprint, with a goal of reducing energy usage by 20 percent by 2015.

With the nation's gas prices hovering at nearly $5 a gallon, "the reaction [from the public] has been very much a willingness to give this a go," he says.

According to USA Today, the four-day workweek movement is gaining in popularity among county governments across the nation. Marion County, Florida, has a mandatory four-day workweek for employees; Oconee County, South Carolina, and Walworth County, Wisconsin, have it for roadwork crews; and Will County, Illinois, has it for the auditor's office. Oakland County, Michigan, is seeking volunteers for a four-day workweek, and Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Suffolk County, New York, are moving toward it, says Jacqueline Byers, director of research at the National Association of Counties.

Though Gov. Huntsman cites energy efficiency -- including rising gas prices -- as the reason behind the decision, some Utah residents don't believe this is the full truth. In the eyes of some Utah residents, the four-day workweek may replace their annual bonus and reduce a company's operating costs.

Overall, a four-day workweek is a good idea and will likely prove popular among working moms among the state's employees. The move will do wonders for improving work-life balance, which is something employees have emphatically been asking for in recent years.

Take the 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center, which says that only 21 percent of working mothers with children under 18 viewed full-time work as the best arrangement, down from 32 percent in 1997. And of those surveyed, 60 percent said a part-time job would be best, up from 48 percent 10 years ago.

Some snags will need to be smoothed out, of course. Working moms will need to figure out child-care options -- will providers start offering a four-day-a-week plan, or will families still have to pay for five days?

Let's hope the state of Utah does reap big environmental rewards from this new law. It is almost a shoo-in that working moms will benefit too.

5 comments so far...

  • This is promising, because I believe that it's so hard for working moms to achieve a work-life balance. Being a mom is a job in itself, and it's so hard to come home from your actual job to another one. Don't get me wrong, being a mother is a beautiful thing, but it takes a great of time, patience, and effort. If more of a balance can be achieved with this four day workweek, then that's great!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by EnticingEnigma on 1st September 2008

  • I would be a great idea as long as the pay for the week would stay the same. For me, even getting shorted one day of pay would be a lot. The extra day off however, would be nice for more family time, appointments, chores, etc.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by erin on 1st September 2008

  • I think it would be great -- if it didn't mean a pay cut. I'd gladly work four 10-hour days to have an extra day off for family, errands, laundry, cleaning, doctor's appointments. I think it would really reduce my stress.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Gina on 26th August 2008

  • I think that would be GREAT, as long as the workers aren't taking a cut in pay. The article doesn't specify whether the employees are going to be working fewer HOURS and/or recieve less pay.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mom2Rylie on 26th August 2008

  • I'm a stay-at-home mom so a 4-day work week would be AMAZING b/c that would mean maybe "I GET FRIDAY'S OFF!" LOL!
    It would be great to make plans as a family with one extra day in the weekend!

    Checkin' into land in Utah!!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by sigkapgal on 26th August 2008