State employees are mostly positive about the prospect of the new four-day workweek set to start next month, a Utah Department of Human Resource Management survey released Monday shows.

"That's what I expected all along. The vast majority are either positive or neutral to the change," the department's executive director, Jeff Herring, said of the more than 8,600 responses last week to the e-mail survey distributed by state-agency heads.

Employees were asked a series of questions to measure their attitude toward the new schedule. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. announced the workweek as a way to save an estimated $3 million annually in energy costs by closing many state buildings on Fridays.

Fifty-six percent of those responding said they preferred working four 10-hour days to the traditional five-day workweek. Under the governor's plan, on Aug. 4 about 23,000 employees will begin working from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Most respondents said they anticipated the new schedule would have no impact on meeting child-care needs, using public transportation, holding second jobs or attending school.

More than 40 percent said they believe the shorter workweek will have a positive impact on their personal activities outside of work, while nearly 31 percent said the impact would likely be negative.

But more than 60 percent disagreed with the statement that there were many negatives associated with the new schedule that could not be overcome. Nearly as many disagreed that working four 10-hour days would be very inconvenient.

The results are similar to those found by another recent survey, which was conducted by the Utah Public Employees Association. The four-day workweek was favored by 75 percent of the state workers who took the association's e-mail survey, the UPEA reported.

"For the most part, public employees support this move both on environmental grounds and increasing worker morale," said Todd Sutton, UPEA employee representative. Still, he said, there are some problems to be solved with individual workers.

Herring said a part of the state survey that was not released dealt with specific needs the new schedule will create for some employees, such as longer day-care hours or even new bus schedules.

"We'll be able to focus on where we do a lot of our outreach now to make sure we've got everything in place," Herring said, promising his department would offer employees who are adversely affected "flexibility, flexibility, flexibility, but not at the sake of public accountability."


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