Good government requires a willingness to be innovative and forward-thinking. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has set out an aggressive agenda and is striving to have Utah lead by example with the Working 4 Utah initiative.
As Utah moves toward implementing a four-day workweek on Monday there are tremendous benefits to be seen by everyone affected. There are three critical areas that highlight the broad-spectrum benefits of this program: energy costs and the environmental impact, customer service and employee satisfaction.
In a time of record energy costs, Utahns are finding ways to trim their energy consumption at home and in business. Taxpayers should expect government to make the same types of assessments being done at kitchen tables around Utah about the way we are consuming energy.
By closing government buildings on Fridays, we are able to cut energy costs by 20 percent in those buildings. This is a significant step, not only in a budgetary sense and saving taxpayer money, but also in the effort to reduce state government's carbon footprint, thereby helping to improve our air quality and our overall quality of life.
Huntsman has set an aggressive goal to increase energy efficiency 20 percent by 2015. This initiative is just one step in that overall goal to be more responsible about energy consumption.
In addition to the budgetary and environmental benefits, this effort should be seen as an effort to be more innovative in our approach to deliver government services to the public. By extending the hours government offices are open Monday through Thursday to 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., customers will be able to access services that have historically conflicted with traditional business hours.
This move is an effort to ensure service when it is convenient for the taxpayers. We're here to serve you, so if our hours are set to accommodate your needs, we're doing our job more effectively.
We are also able to serve the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with more than 800 services available online at Utah.gov, giving customers immediate access to services without the hassle of ever having to enter a government building.
Finally, state employees are some of the finest, most dedicated public servants the taxpayers of Utah could ask for. We can keep and recruit good public employees by reducing their commuting costs by 20 percent each week. Employees are also given more time each weekend to enjoy the tremendous quality of life Utah is known for.
Another significant advantage will be the state's ability to attract and recruit the best and brightest of the emerging work force who are looking to be innovative and creative and equally value time away from work to be refreshed.
Certainly there are potential issues the state is proactively addressing in the path of the Working 4 Utah implementation. Concerns such as child care, transportation and other obligations like school and jobs have topped the list for employees.
We are working with the Utah Transit Authority to seek better access to public transportation to accommodate the new government hours. There are services available to state employees to help them find access to child care with extended hours.
Managers have been directed to provide flexibility, especially in this transition time period, to give employees ample time and opportunity to adjust to the new schedule. Fortunately, in an overall survey of state employees, more than 80 percent believe there to be multiple advantages to this new schedule.
It takes time to adjust to changes. We want to ensure the public is well served by state government. As the public adjusts to the idea of government services being closed on Friday, we will provide a Working 4 Utah ombudsman hotline for anyone seeking government services on Fridays to call for guidance on what can be done online or how to expedite their request within the confines of the new schedule.
The ombudsman will be available until January and can be reached at 801-538-1808.
This is a pilot program that will be in place for one year with reviews to make sure the public is receiving the services it needs, the energy savings are being realized and employees are satisfied with the new schedule.Innovation does not exist in maintaining the status quo. While states, counties and cities throughout the rest of the country are studying ideas and contemplating action, it takes leadership to act. Utahns should be proud to know Huntsman is helping Utah move forward in an effort better serve you.
Jeff Herring is executive director of the Utah Department of Human Resources.