FOUR Day Workweek?

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l4day 0907 FOUR Day Workweek?When I saw the headline “Peoria may join cities that have 4-day workweek” in the Arizona Republic, I was excited.  I LIVE IN PEORIA!!!  Is this a city-wide mandate?  Are all residents legally bound to a four day workweek?  Well, not quite.  Read on…

(Article courtesy of the Republic’s Sonu Munshi)

Peoria resident Kelly Tjon is all for closing down City Hall every Friday. No questions asked.  Tjon talked about reducing traffic and saving on employees’ use of gas.  “I’d say go for it,” Tjon said. “Half the things get done online these days anyway.”

That’s the sort of feedback Peoria officials want to hear. They are considering changing the municipal schedule to a four-day, 10-hour-a-day workweek, with Fridays off. If approved, the change could take effect by summer.

Since 2008, when gas prices surged to $4 a gallon and the recession dug deep, state and local government leaders across the nation have explored the option of a reduced workweek.

Utah made headlines when it implemented a “4/10″ in 2008. Last month, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons approved flexible workweeks for state employees. El Paso is among the largest cities to have shortened its workweek.

Queen Creek, Fountain Hills, Avondale and Buckeye have already moved to a reduced workweek that has proven popular with residents and employees. Mesa is the largest city in metro Phoenix to have made the switch.

Local officials tout the dual benefit of employee satisfaction and some utility-cost savings, combined with the convenience residents report by getting extra hours in the morning and evening to pay bills or apply for permits. Hours are generally 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. City halls are also closed for Monday holidays.

Avondale spokeswoman Pier Simeri reports annual savings of about $60,000 on energy and janitorial costs.

Longtime Mesa resident Tanya Collins, co-chair of the Mesa Grande Community Alliance, said the reduced hours took some time to get used to because “you typically expect people to work and be available Fridays.” But she said it sometimes helps to have longer hours to get things done during the day.

Not all services close Fridays. Police and fire, libraries and recreation programs, for example, continue.

Rex Facer, associate professor of public finance and management at Brigham Young University in Utah, has researched 4/10s extensively. He said improved morale appeared to be the biggest benefit, along with increased productivity.

Forty-six percent of 151 cities with a population of 25,000 or more surveyed by BYU reported offering a compressed workweek.

Human-resource directors surveyed reported less absenteeism, fewer sick days and smaller transportation costs.

“It adds to employee job satisfaction in these tough times of layoffs and vanishing pay raises,” Facer said.

He noted that cities in the West are more likely to innovate because their population growth has placed greater demands on services, he said.

But don’t count on everyone to jump in. Officials in Phoenix, Glendale, Goodyear and Scottsdale said they’ve explored the option at some level, but none is convinced the cost savings are worth closing offices for a day.

“It would save us $30,000 for City Hall to close, but we’re still worried about affecting customer service,” said Paula Ilardo, economic-development director in Goodyear.

State employees also will be on “5/8″ for now, said Alan Ecker, spokesman for the Department of Administration.

Leslie Scott, director of the National Association of State Personnel Executives, said that even though many states and counties are exploring the option of a four-day week, implementing it would be a tough call.

“Utah’s advantages are that its mass-transit agency and child-care providers accommodated schedules to suit the new work hours,” Scott said.

Peoria resident Julio Garcia, 31, said he liked the idea of the city saving money by being off Fridays. But he said that if someone had Friday off and planned to conduct business with the city, it wouldn’t help. “They should leave room for flexibility,” he said.

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