Wednesday, September 7, 2011

5 day work week

I have never worked a five-day week since I started my career as a registered nurse in 1983 until now.  Flexible scheduling, sometimes out of necessity is one of the perks of being a nurse. Read about the advantages of the four day work week here.  Of course hours can also be one of the drawbacks if you want to work the "standard" weekday.

Now in their all-knowing wisdom, after state employees (myself included) have been working 4 tens for the past 3 years, the legislature in a knee-jerk response, sans research bowed to a few constituents who "complained about services not available on Fridays" - wah, wah, wah, wah, wah !  They cite that the savings in moving to 4 tens was not as great as Governor Huntsman (who implemented it) had expected.  Are you kidding???  The savings were not great enough for the legislature to show some tough love?  There was still considerable savings - the last I read around $800,000 per year.  That's nothing to throw a stick at in these tough economic times.  AND it's going to cost MORE to switch back at least that $800,000 that was saved with the 4 tens.  Of course we have this kind of money to float here, right?  And now, besides losing the savings, we have to ADD the cost (unfunded mandate).

This post is not about me having to work 5 days/week.  It's about the micromanagement and short-sightedness of the state legislature.  It's about lack of flexibility and even leadership.  It's about job satisfaction that makes for more productive employees.  It's about being better when we are valued and therefore getting outside the government "box".

Way to go Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab -you're a real thinker - as are the other 20 legislatures who can't do math.  And, who don't value state employees. 

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, said legislators needed to consider employees in the debate, since many of them had to make major changes when the state shifted them to 10-hour days. "We have to make sure there is stability," Davis said. "I have not heard an outcry about the four-day workweek ... but I've heard they like the extended hours for service."  This is the irony - people like being able to access state services during their own non-working times such as 7-8 AM and 5-6 PM.  What about their votes?

Besides the hard dollar amounts, there are many savings in the 4 day week that are harder to measure such as time saved with motorists traveling off-peak hours, employee satisfaction (when we haven't receives as much as a COLA or any other raise in over 4 years).   Other countries who value time with their families already incorporate such non-traditional scheduling.  Some countries actually recognize the value of a nap mid-day!  Science has even backed that one, but you won't see that here in this "highly developed" country.

So, people, quit your whining!  You say you don't want more taxes, you know there isn't enough money in state coffers to pay the bills, but rather than adjusting your schedules a little more, you convince the legislature it is some kind of ridiculous hardship - even though the longer hours meant access to services before or after work for most people.

We're in a serious recession/almost depression people!  We're also in a war.  Wars cost money, welfare services cost money, etc. etc.  In such times past, people made necessary adjustments.  They tightened their virtual belts and stopped wearing nylons.  They also learned to live without a lot of other luxuries - like cars.  But in the age of entitlement Americans can't go to the DMV before or after work on Monday through Thursday.  "But I wanna go on, hoo!"  Never mind that many of the services are offered online and you don't have to wait in line at all.  Mechanic shops can register your car for you at the time of inspection if you don't have a computer or don't want to do it yourself.

We complain about pollution, but getting thousands of vehicles off the road one day per week is "not worth it"?  Employee satisfaction is not worth it?  The four day week has been shown to have many advantages to society, to employees and to taxpayers.  Such short-sighted thinking as has been recently shown by the Utah State Legislature further evidences that in many ways we insist on lagging behind.  We had the chance to be a leader here, as the first state to adopt this policy.  But, not so quick...we can't have that now, can we?  For those legislators worried about the complainers' votes, maybe it's time to think about the employees who also vote.  In a time when incumbents are not popular, this seems like a pretty dumb move.  I'll tell you now, I won't vote for any of the micro-managers on the hill.

The way the Legislature changed the law, despite surveys that showed the workers and the public liked the four-day-a-week schedule, doesn't sit well. (SLTrib).  And, this was an emergency how?  (Read here)

In addition to taking away the progressive and COST SAVING four day work week, these micromanagers have also decreed that flexible hours in general are out.  The entire Health Department MUST work 5 eights, even if there is no reason to do so.  Even those who had flexibility of hours prior to the 4 tens/week adoption, have now lost that option.  I know an advanced practice RN working for the state who has spent over 35 years saving lives in rural areas, educating people, working with poor people and minorities and basically being a professional.  Now she needs to be clocked in like all the other employees the legislature does not view as professionals.  I am disgusted by this attitude and believe they are taking advantage of the situation - poor economy and lots of available people for hire.  They have totally disregarded the time, effort and money it takes for a professional to be proficient in his or her job.  We can't be trusted like other professionals who are salaried and who get their work done regardless of how many hours each week it takes to do it. (hmmmm, like Legislators?)

The legislature has taken a clear stand - they don't value their employees, consider everyone expendable and love the idea of the revolving door.  I hope we will also show them the door on election day. 
Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, who was one of the proponents of requiring offices to open five days a week, believes there's lots of room for managers to be creative. (read here) Get real!!! Tell that to Dr. Patton of the Utah Dept. of Health.  Creativity has never been something the government does well.  This latest move punctuates that point.  Their assurance that flexibility is part of the plan is hogwash!  People who had flexibility before the 4 day week no longer have it in many cases.  Mine is a case in point.  This office had no nurse until I came here 3 months ago.  The needs were covered by other nurses of the department in other state locations since my job is done by phone and computer; not in person, hands-on.  Now, it is suddenly essential that I sit at my desk for 8 hours a day, five days a week with a mandatory lunch break, no flexibility and a decrease in other "soft" benefits.

I don't pretend that some state employees welcome the return to traditional scheduling, but the surveys show they are a very slim minority.

Not sure who the Trib was quoting here but you can read the article.  "Not everyone will have to change. As much as a quarter of the state workforce was on some sort of flexible schedule before Huntsman's announcement in 2008. The Governor's Office estimates about that same percentage will still have flexibility after the return of the five-day workweek." (Read here - again)  Hmmmmm, I wonder where that memo was lost...  Yes, I had flexibility before but not any more - we have to keep the legislators and their whiny neighbors happy.

Unfortunately, in the end they will get what they want - clock-watchers, entry-level (read: cheap) labor, greater inefficiencies than we already see, fewer experienced professionals who have common sense, good judgment and who take their work seriously.  This is a reflection on our society.
Gov. Gary Herbert issued this statement after the Legislature voted to restore the five-day workweek:“There is no debate over whether the state should support expanded services. I have agreed that we should provide services throughout the week to taxpayers, so I made sure certain services like the Driver License Division and DMV were accessible on Fridays. More services than ever are also available 24/7 online. 

“The only issue here was that the Legislature failed to pay for it; there was no funding for this bill. But there is a $790,000 price tag for turning on the lights and opening the doors an additional day. Regardless of the override, they are still going to have to pay for the expanded Friday services.”


  1. I'm sorry you have to work 5 days each week.

    Perhaps some perspective might help you feel better about it:

  2. One more . . .

    This one is amazing and humbling. At least it was for me.

  3. Well spoken Debbie! Once again the legislature only saw their needs and failed to think things through to the end.


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