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Energy Savings: A Potential Benefit of a Compressed Work Week

    Key Points
  • Compressed work schedules are commonly used to improve employee satisfaction and save energy.
  • Public and private facilities have reduced energy use after adopting compressed work weeks.
  • Compressed work schedules can be difficult to establish and aren't suitable for every facility.

Factory workers
A compressed work week is a commonly used strategy to improve employee satisfaction, increase productivity and save energy. It's usually four days working a 10-hour shift but there are other options.

For organizations shutting down all or part of their facilities for an extra day each week, potential energy savings can come from reduced heating and cooling needs; and by powering down lights, office equipment and other building systems and equipment.

Saving energy and more

A variety of organizations have reduced their energy use:

  • The Utah government reduced facility energy costs by 10.5 percent, a savings of more than $500,000.
  • Asheville (N. C.) cut energy use in public works buildings by 13 percent.
  • At CIty Hall, Boynton Beach (Fla.) saw a 21 percent reduction in electricity use cost savings of more than $77,000.
  • Brevard Community College (Fla.) saved the school $267,000 in energy costs for more than a year.

The benefits of a shorter work week go beyond energy savings. A join study at the University of Minnesota and Massachusetts Institute of Technology found employees with flexible work schedules felt more supported by managers, had enough time to spend with loved ones and reported higher job satisfaction. Productivity can also increase.

Potential issues

Despite these advantages, a compressed work week can be difficult to establish. Such a change may draw initial resistance from employees and require coordination with customers, suppliers and business partners. Without a strong enforcement policy, staff members may continue to use the facility during off days, reducing or negating energy savings.

Some organizations can't fully close their facilities because of business demands or the needs of individual departments. For example, marketing or shipping and receiving may need to remain open to interact with the five-day business schedule. Also, many facilities must operate on seven-day weeks, making a compressed work week impossible.

Implementing a compressed work week

Follow these steps for a successful implementation:

  1. Consider the costs and benefits. Will the potential energy savings and improved performance outweigh the time and effort involved in making the switch?
  2. Review organizational policy regarding flexible schedules, vacation time and overtime. Consider how these are impacted as you change your operating schedule.
  3. Present your plan to employees and solicit their feedback; this helps you obtain useful information about potential issues or problems.
  4. Obtain commitment from upper management to strongly enforce the new work schedule. 
  5. Start with a trial period of six months or one year so you can monitor the new schedule and measure results.
  6. Evaluate results from the trial period and make adjustments based on your initial goals.

Defining roles and setting reasonable expectations is also important for such a program to work.

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