Is a 4-day workweek inevitable? Utah cuts energy use 13%

Closing Utah state offices on Fridays has resulted in a 13 percent reduction in energy use according to an internal analysis of the nation’s most expansive four-day workweek program.

Since last August, about 17,000 of the state’s 24,000 executive branch employees have been working 10 hours a day, four days a week in an effort to reduce energy consumption and cut utility costs….

The state estimates that, collectively, employees will save between $5 million and $6 million annually by not commuting on Fridays and the initiative will cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12,000 metric tons.

Even before we get desperate about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even before the global Ponzi scheme collapses, gasoline prices are going to blow past $4 a gallon (see World’s top energy economist warns peak oil threatens recovery: “We have to leave oil before oil leaves us”).  So it seems inevitable that much of the nation will adopt the 4-day work week sometime over the next two decades — especially if the results of Utah’s program are replicated by others.

“I can’t even name all the places that have called us,” said John Harrington, state energy manager.

Aaron Newton in an Oil Drum post, estimates that a national 4-day work week would save 5% to 10% of the more than 8 million barrels a day he calculates that U.S. commuters use.  And he notes there would be other environmental and health benefits

A recent study by the California EPA says “50% of a person’s daily exposure to ultra fine particles (the particles linked to cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses) can occur during a commute.” A report by the Clean Air Task Force in 2007 found diesel particle levels were between 4 to 8 times higher in commute vehicles than in the surrounding air. It makes sense when you think about it. The pollution coming from the tailpipe of a vehicle is mostly likely to affect you while you’re sitting directly behind it, especially if you’re stuck in slow moving traffic where the concentrations of such particles can build up.

Scientific American quotes John Langmaid, who is organizing an upcoming symposium on the issue for the Connecticut Law Review:

“If employees are on the road 20 percent less, and office buildings are only powered four days a week,” Langmaid says, “the energy savings and congestion savings would be enormous.” Plus, the hour shift for the Monday through Thursday workers means fewer commuters during the traditional rush hours, speeding travel for all. It also means less time spent idling in traffic and therefore less spewing of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The 9-to-5 crowd also gets the benefit of extended hours at the DMV and other state agencies that adopt the four-day schedule.

And outgoing Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman explains “the cost savings will only grow if the four-day workweek is granted permanent status”:

He says that’s because the state could renegotiate its long-term leases, invest in equipment that would isolate cooling and heating to where its needed on nights and weekends and that utility costs will inevitably rise in future years, particularly if a proposed cap and trade system on carbon emissions is put in place.

And the folks in Utah seem to like it:

Employee surveys have also shown that most state workers like the new schedule “” absenteeism and overtime are down and customer complaints have steadily dropped. Even wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles have decreased under extended hours Monday through Thursday….

Some employees like the four-day workweek so much that they’re using a voluntary peer pressure network to help the program meets its cost-saving, energy-cutting goals to help ensure the program “” and employees’ three-day weekends “” survive.

Seems inevitable, no?

And the lighter side, from

4-day work week

h/t TNR

15 Responses to Is a 4-day workweek inevitable? Utah cuts energy use 13%

  1. manuel pacheco says:

    There is a bomb attached to my kitten. It has a timer set for 30 days. If the economy does not improve within that period the kitten will die!

  2. Sasparilla says:

    Wow, I just thought if we just worked continuously for 2 days straight, with no sleep, we’d get the whole work week in and our companies could save so much money! It would be so efficient! That would be so worth it!

    Lets see…hmmmnnn, got the poor slobs paying for their own retirements now instead of the companies (pensions out, 401k in – check), working on doing the same with health care (co-pays increase and reductions in benefits occur every year – check) and now lets start the assault on that standard 8hr work day quality of life nuisance (break down quality of life victory from the last century – check).

    We should bring back company towns/stores and eliminate overtime for people who have it – that would be very efficient too.

    Why don’t we just save these great companies way more money and have them enable the folks who can, to telecommute on standard 8hr work days – then we can get rid of the oil and office use entirely and give those folks back their commuting time to do whatever they want with. I like that idea alot better – plus the business world works on 5 day work weeks…not 4.

  3. Scatter says:

    I would love to work a condensed working week. Quite apart from the efficiency gains, I reckon society would be a happier place if they had 3 days off work. Bring it on I say!

    Some of the efficiency gains will be offset by increased home heating / cooling though. Has this been quantified?

  4. David says:

    Are these alleged energy savings total or net? I’m assuming that when employees don’t come to work on Friday, they don’t just sit at home in the dark, sweating. They run errands in their cars, use air conditioning, watch TV, listen to the radio, use their computers, etc.

  5. Seth Masia says:

    A four-day work week makes sense to me. I’d happily work 8 to 7, four days a week, with an hour’s siesta mid day. In return I’d have a three-day weekend every week. Or, if we staggered the weeks (Mon-to-Thurs and Tues-to-Fri) we could have a four-day weekend every other week. I’d ski more in the winter, and cycle and sail more in the summer. I’d be healthier, for sure. Traffic would move more efficiently because rush hours would expand — fewer cars on the road during any given hour, especially on Mondays and Fridays. Oil imports would plummet. Let’s get this enacted!

  6. hapa says:

    ** 4-day weeks
    to lower footprint as eco-budgets tighten
    ** fewer hours-per-week (with better hourly compensation)
    to maintain full employment as productivity increases
    ** portable healthcare and retirement, cheaper education, fairer taxes, and less debt
    to help people breathe easier.

  7. jonesey says:

    Don’t get too hung up on the ten-hour-day thing. That can be pretty taxing.

    I worked four days a week, 8 hours a day for about six years, taking a nominal 20% pay cut (although, since it comes off the top, it’s nowhere near a 20% cut in take-home pay). I had a three-day weekend every weekend, with four-day weekends when Monday holidays rolled around. I couldn’t understand how anyone got anything done in their personal lives. I could run errands and do house/personal to-dos on Friday, and I still had a whole weekend to goof off, go camping, whatever.

    It was the best thing I have ever done to improve my quality of life.

    Sadly, my manager has moved me back to 5 days, so I have more money and less time. I’d much rather have the time; I can’t buy Fridays with my extra take-home pay.

    P.S. I recognize that I have the luxury of giving up some of my take-home pay. Some people are not as fortunate. There are many, many people who could cut a few expenses here and there, though, to make a 32-hour work week viable.

  8. paulm says:

    Hullo, recession, reduced income.
    Lots of people cannot afford a shorter week.

  9. Mike D says:

    I used to work 4 10s and I loved it. It wasn’t any harder to work 10 hours than 8, I mean I’m already there, right? Sure you lose 2 hours a day but that is no comparison to having a whole extra DAY off every week. Plus, on holidays? FOUR day weekends!

  10. Mike D says:

    Paul, it’s not a shorter week, it’s 4 10-hour days. Still 40 hours but minus one day of commuting.

  11. hapa says:

    ready for fun? 40 hours is a picture in the mind. men work 42 hour weeks on average, women average 36, formally something to keep in mind as we try to understand how to make it all work when it looks like the world is coming apart.

  12. hapa says:

    * “formally. something”

  13. paulm says:

    What about those with 2 jobs on the go?

  14. I love this idea, but don’t hold out much hope. Sasparilla’s idea might float – if we can convince managers to trust their employees enough to embrace telecommuting. Change, unfortunately, is always a hard sell.

    The best and most likely way to get this happening is to have it forced as a compulsory change, pushed from the top down. Anybody see the problems with having a 4 day work week at the white house?


  15. RE Wonk says:

    It’s important to note this tidbit in the AP article:

    Even though employees are still working 40 hours a week, Harrington says energy savings are being realized under the new schedule because buildings were previously being used at all hours of the day to accommodate wildly divergent work schedules and personal preferences. Now, anyone who comes into work early, stays late or comes in over the weekend does so without being guaranteed the heat or air conditioning will be on.

    So Utah was leaving its buildings conditioned 24/7 before, and now it’s only conditioning them during the four working days. That means a lot of the savings are being realized by measures that have nothing to do with the four-day week, namely, by eliminating building conditioning on nights and weekends. Similar savings could’ve been achieved with a five-day work week, so the 13% savings is really exaggerated.