State Department of Commerce employees were treated to pastries this morning and the opportunity to tell Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. what they think of the new four-day workweek that began Monday.
Just about everyone the governor talked to during his tour was upbeat about the chance to take Fridays off, although several noted challenges in getting to work earlier on public transportation and in adjusting their child-care arrangements.
Huntsman spent about an hour pushing a cartload of treats through the department's offices at the Heber M. Wells Building in downtown Salt Lake City, asking employees how they were adjusting to the longer hours Mondays through Thursdays.
"It was a reaffirmation that people largely like the new schedule," the governor told the sizable group of reporters, photographers and television cameras that trailed him throughout the building.
Janet Collings, a receptionist in the department's consumer protection office, told Huntsman that the four-day workweek "sounds like a good idea. I guess we'll have to find out how it works out."
Collings said after her brief visit with Huntsman that his coming to her office "shows he's interested in what we think." She said the longer work days will take some getting used to, since most employees will now work 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The governor proposed the switch earlier this summer as a way to cut the state's energy usage and save on utility costs. Shutting down most or all of the offices in some 1,000 state buildings on Fridays is expected to save taxpayers about $3 million annually.
But it also means that Utahns won't be able to access many government services in person on Fridays, such as renewing driver's licenses or, in the case of the Commerce Department, obtaining a professional license or registering a corporation.
Derek Dalton, who was at the department offices this morning to deal with an issue surrounding his business, said he was unaware of the new four-day schedule. But, he said, it wouldn't have bothered him if he'd come on Friday and found the offices closed.
"Businesses are open certain times," Dalton said. "You've got to abide by that."Francine Giani, the department's executive director, said she and other employees will be on hand Friday to let the public know why the offices are closed. Giani herself purchased the pastries handed out today and plans to offer employees energy drinks Wednesday.