Utah’s Mandatory 4-Day Work Week Will Save the World. Sort of.

The 4-day work week has been a hot topic for several months.  The idea of a compressed work week has become popular, in large part, because of the increasing cost of gasoline and the resulting impact on the price of employees’ everyday commute.  Although various iterations of an alternative work schedule have been on the radar of the news media, it’s not clear whether the idea is really gaining momentum with employers in the private sector.  Government employers, on the other hand, seem to have taken a real interest. 

utah green

The latest announcement from the public sector comes from the State of Utah, which has announced that it will impose a mandatory 4-day work week for most state workers.  The spin, though, is a bit unusual. As reported by the article in USA Today, “Most state workers shifting to 4-day work week,” Governor Huntsman (R), announced the plan and explained that its purpose is “to reduce the state’s carbon footprint, increase energy efficiency, improve customer service, and provide workers more flexibility.”

Approximately 80% of state workers will be affected.  Public universities, state courts, prisons, and some services will be exempt from the mandatory change.  The State doesn’t seem to be concerned about the availability of state services for residents.  Many state offices will remain open on Fridays and “more than 800 state services are available online.”

Really?  All of that from an alternative work schedule?  And with no negative impacts on citizens?  Pretty impressive.  Maybe. 

Pardon my skepticism but I have some doubts.  After all, it didn’t work for Ohio, which abandoned a 4-day workweek after several months due to the lack of available services to the State’s residents.  And, although I suppose the Governor’s claims may be accurate, I suspect his expectations may be somewhat overzealous. 

For example, I can’t make the connection between improved customer service and a 4-day work week.  After all, as Ohio experienced, it’s a real hassle when the government offices close down for an entire day every week, further limiting citizens’ access to state services. 

And, as for the claim about online services, I’d suspect that this will be of little or no help to the state’s poor who are largely without ready access to the internet and who also are the group with the greatest need for the state assistance.  I would not be at all surprised if the law would be able to withstand a constitutional challenge for violating the guarantee to equal access to governmental services. 

But don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m opposed to the idea of a 4-day work week.  It’s just that I’m not so crazy about it being mandatory–especially not given the potentially negative consequences on the citizens with the greatest dependence on the availability of government services.