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?