Are we doing our part to battle the energy-crunch, or just lounging around on 3-day weekends???
In 1938 the U.S. Government passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), standardizing the eight hour work day and the 40 hour work week. At the time it was a major improvement for the average American worker, since prior to the FLSA, many companies forced their employees to work 60+ hour weeks with no regulations whatsoever requiring employers to exercise fair and humane treatment on their workers. “Sweat shops” were the norm, not the exception. Since that fateful day seventy years ago, every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday workers all over the country wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast and go to work from 9 to 5.
Over the years situations have come along that have made people question the ‘absolute’ effectiveness of this 5 day 40 hour week. My first personal memory of such a situation was during the gasoline shortage in the early ’70s. It was a crazy time as cars lined up at gas stations only being able to fuel up on odd or even days. People were literally fighting in the streets over gasoline. During that crisis, some forward-thinking companies realized that they could work 4-10 hour days instead of 5-8 hour days, still get their required production quotas complete, and save 20% in fuel usage for the employees with the shortened weekly commutes.
Obviously the 4-day work week didn’t become the standard overnight but it has been around for decades now in one form or another with many manufacturing companies utilizing it for their blue-collar workforces. It is often used as a perk in recruiting, and most employees find it to be a great benefit to them. As flex-shifts became popular in the 80’s & 90’s more white-collar companies started instituting 4-day weeks too. Again it was considered a benefit and people were very much in favor of the resulting 3 day weekends. Employers also became fans of the 4 day week as they took note of improved morale, increases in productivity and decreases in absenteeism. So did these companies find the ‘ultimate schedule’ for the employees and their shareholders? Some say yes, some say no but I think all agree on one point. There are some very tangible energy savings to be considered when setting a company’s work week, both for the employees and the company. When skyrocketing energy costs are bold headlines in every newspaper across the country every day, any and all ideas must be seriously considered. We find ourselves at that crossroad today.
Here at Setpoint, we have weighed the options and the potential benefits and drawbacks carefully and concluded that a 4 day week seems to be a good fit for us. With all factors considered, we have undertaken a 90 day experiment to try and implement a more efficient schedule that balances the needs of our employees, our customers, and our shareholders. We have adjusted our work week to a “four 10s” mode, or Monday through Thursday 6:00 am to 4:30 pm. This change comes in response to several key points that have become more relevant by the day:
- Public gas price comments have quickly transitioned from things like “Oh my goodness, these gas prices are steep!” to “Without a doubt, we should immediately invade and occupy all foreign oil-producing countries!”
- The Great State of Utah, led by our friend and Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., has moved all state employees to a similar work week, with practically all state offices closed on Fridays.
- For some time now, Setpoint employees have requested a four-day work week. After weighing every possible angle, we feel that we can be just as effective (if not more) as we were in a Monday through Friday, 8 hours per day shift. At the same time, everyone gets an extra day to relax, pursue their hobbies, spend time with their families, etc. and of course, there are those nifty energy savings to consider.
The primary payoff for this schedule for employees is obvious, with an extra day available every week for whatever they may choose to use it for, and an immediate 20% reduction in commuting costs. But there are also a number of less-obvious benefits that should be noted: less wear and tear on vehicles, less time spent inhaling polluted air while stuck in traffic and less commute-related stress for everyone.
The payoff for the environment is also easy to see, as theoretically we are facilitating a 20% reduction in the notorious greenhouse gasses that our cars emit by reducing the commuting days for every employee (in reality, it will probably be less than a 20% reduction since many people will still be driving SOMEWHERE on Fridays, even if they don’t have to drive to Setpoint anymore). There is also the added energy savings of minimizing electrical and natural gas usage in the Setpoint facility on Fridays.
And finally, the payoff that the 4-day work week can bring to Setpoint should be noted. For years government and academic studies have shown that employees are more efficient in a 4 day work week. The reasons cited are 20% less ‘start-up time’ required every week (i.e. that protracted “where was I when I left off yesterday?” timeframe that we all go through every morning as our caffeine kicks in), improved employee morale, and a decrease in employee absenteeism (due to an extra day every week to take care of personal business). This schedule also allows a more reasonable ‘flex’ when the workload is heavy and overtime is required to complete commitments. Employees can work overtime on Fridays as required to stay on schedule and still have a two-day weekend to “recharge the batteries”.
With the changes that are taking place in the world today we all need to be flexible and open-minded to try and find more efficient ways to conduct business. This means we need to occasionally look past some of the long-standing traditions that may no longer be as applicable as they once were. With that sort of forward-thinking in mind, we here at Setpoint embark on our 90-day experiment with high hopes for a successful outcome. The measure of success will be determined by the technical and financial effectiveness and efficiency in our efforts, as well as our employee and customer satisfaction levels. If we are as successful as we expect to be, it’s probable that we will implement the 4-day work week as our standard. Check back with us in 90 days to see how this grand experiment works out!