Jefferson County, Colorado, moved some of its government operations to a 4-day workweek on June 1. In most cases, this means moving staff to four 10-hour days, not reducing total working hours, and law enforcement and the library system plans to remain on regular working hours.
Jefferson County is one of the largest in Colorado, and includes the towns of Golden (home of the Coors brewery and Colorado School of Mines) and Evergreen (where my parents live). It’s essentially a Denver suburb, and includes some pretty well-off areas. But since January, the county has been looking at having to make some serious cuts to its budget, and that was even before the pandemic forced many offices to close.
Like many county governments, Jeffco not allowed to run deficits, estimates of growth are falling, so it’s facing a nearly $30 million shortfall over the next two years. At the time, local news reported that “Every county office has been asked to make hard choices while officials consider consolidating DMV locations. The county is now offering DMV kiosks at grocery stores. Other savings could come from four-day workweeks for administrative staffers.”
According to county manager Don Davis, “We believe there will be a decrease in costs along with an increase in productivity through a four-day business week and are optimistic this change will yield positive results.”
Further, the Lakewood Sentinel reports, “Davis said the move to a four-day-week will allow the county to save about $350,000 from reduced energy use. Davis also points to a Microsoft study that found labor productivity increased by 39.9% for Microsoft Japan when it switched to a four-day-week.”
State and local governments have experimented with 4-day weeks for some time. In Utah, the state government adopted a 4-day, 10-hour workweek between 2008 to 2011, and the government of the city of El Paso had one between 2009 and 2018. In the last month, Morgantown, West Virginia, and the Nova Scotia municipality of Guysborough both started 4-day week trials, and of course politicians from Andrew Yang to Nicola Sturgeon have recently talked about how the 4-day week could (as I argued in The Atlantic) help us reopen safely. And a majority of Colorado school systems— most of which are rural– already operate on 4-day weeks.