Utah is slated to be the first big state to go to a 10-hour, four-day work week beginning in August in an effort to save energy costs.

An order signed by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. directed state agencies to begin operating from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday beginning Aug. 4. The order will affect an estimated 17,000 employees and will close all state offices — including the Division of Natural Resources — on Fridays. Excluded from the order are essential workers, including state troopers, corrections officers and park officials. Also excluded are Utah courts, public schools and colleges, as well as the governor’s office.

“As we go forward with this initiative, we will conserve energy, save money, improve our air quality and enhance customer service.” Huntsman said. “We live in a dynamic, ever-changing environment, and it’s crucial that we take a serious look at how we can adapt and maintain our state’s unparalleled quality of life.”

The “Working 4 Utah” initiative will be “critically evaluated” following a one-year period to allow for any necessary adjustments. State agencies in July will plan and prepare “for this monumental and exciting undertaking,” said Huntsman.

The goal is to conserve energy by not heating and cooling buildings, said Huntsman. It also will reduce gasoline use by commuters and provide an incentive for state workers that could be used as a recruiting tool, he said. The changes will encourage residents to take advantage of state services online and allow employees to telecommute when practical.

“I think we’re onto something that long term is good for the state,” Huntsman said. “The energy efficiencies are significant that we can achieve. When you look at the totality of the needs, this is a good policy moving forward.”

State Administrative Services Director Kim Hood told the Salt Lake Tribune that Utah should be able to close about 1,000 buildings for an extra day a week under the plan, which Hood estimated would cut energy use around 20% and save a projected $3 million a year when fully implemented.

Many businesses and some municipalities already operate on four-day work weeks; other states are said to be considering the move as well.

The Arkansas Times-Herald reported Friday that legislators are considering whether the state should revise its policies and allow four-day work weeks, similar to the Utah plan. Florida’s Miami Herald also reported Friday that North Miami will implement a voluntary four-day, 10-hour work week through August. In Michigan, Bloomfield Township also adopted a four-day work week beginning July 7 “to help the township save money and its employees’ gas costs,” the Detroit News reported Friday.

©Copyright 2008Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.