St. Pierre considers 4-day work week

Move would reduce fuel usage, save employees money

July 16, 2008 at 10:10 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The Public Works Department has been on a four-day work week schedule for years.
Courtesy Photo
The Public Works Department has been on a four-day work week schedule for years.
The escalating cost of fuel has forced local governments around the country into a four-day work week as a way to help both the workers and employers survive the dilapidated economy.

And since St. Charles Parish has been hit by those rising costs just as hard as anywhere else in the nation, Parish President V.J. St. Pierre has taken notice.

“I have read the recent articles with interest about governments switching to four-day work weeks,” he said. “I am planning to do some research to determine if it would be beneficial for St. Charles to do the same.”

With unleaded gasoline averaging record highs, and food prices climbing, more and more workers are seeing their cash flow disappear. A four-day work week with 10-hour shifts would potentially save those workers money.

City officials in Birmingham, Ala. recently decided to implement a four-day week on July 1 for 2,400 municipal employees and later in the year for close to 1,000 police and firefighters.

The move may save $500,000 to $1 million annually in fuel costs just for those workers.

Utah took the move a step further this summer, becoming the first state to institute a mandatory four-day work week for most state employees. That change will apply to about 17,000 employees, which is close to 80 percent of the state workforce. Residents won’t be hurt too much by the change because many of the state’s offices will stay open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

But even though fuel costs may be hitting the nation particularly hard this summer, the four-day work week is nothing new. In fact, the parish’s Public Works Department has been on a 4-10 schedule for years.

“The decision to go to a four-day work week in public works was really based on the need for extra time to set up work equipment,” Public Works Director Sam Scholle said. “The schedule definitely helps our crews be more productive, and does have an affect on fuel costs for the parish.

“Any time you eliminate a work day, you lessen the mileage on parish trucks.”

The move works well for public works because it is less service-oriented than other departments, such as waterworks, which deals with the public on a day-to-day basis.

Because some of the parish’s departments do deal with the public, it would be hard for them to close on a Friday. That’s why St. Pierre doesn’t want to single out specific departments for the change just yet.

“Some departments are just better suited to staying open five days a week because they do serve the public on an ongoing basis - such as recreation, council on aging and planning and zoning,” St. Pierre said. “We would of course weigh the fuel savings, but also keep in mind the availability of services to the public.”

A 2007 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 38 percent of the companies across the nation offer a compressed work week for some of their employees. The U.S. government has also allowed some of its employees to work on a compressed schedule for years.

A recent study by Brigham Young University also found that employees that work a four-day work week experience lower levels of at-home conflict, which they report translates to higher job satisfaction and productivity. Those workers were also more satisfied with their jobs, compensation and benefits, and were less likely to look for employment elsewhere in the next year.

“The challenges of balancing work and home lives have become much more complex,” Rex Facer, the study’s author, said. “Finding ways to better manage work-family conflict is important in building stronger organizations and satisfied employee bases.”

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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