Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Energy Eggs

What do Staunton, Harrisonburg, Blue Ridge Community College, Pilgrim's Pride, and the University of Virginia have in common? They are all considering four day workweek. But, they are not all considering exactly the same arrangement.
Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Rockingham governments are looking at a four day week in which various offices would be closed one day a week but be open extended hours on the other days. Already some jurisdictions have select maintenance and other "noncritical" operations are on that schedule.
Good egg: That schedule would mean office buildings could be lights out on one weekday thereby saving some heating, cooling and other energy costs (Look for 15-20% increases in electricity cost soon). Employees would save the cost of one day's commute and get three-day weekends (assuming it was a Friday or Monday closing). The extended hours might be convenient for some customers who find it difficult to visit the government offices during the work day.
Bad egg: How would the public react to the change of not being able to walk in and transact business on any business day? Some employees may not like the long workday - would efficiency or safety suffer when workers tire?
Other governments and firms are considering a flex schedule in which the business would be open but individuals would work four 10-hour days. This arrangement would mostly likely work well at schools like BRCC and at some firms that have processes with inefficiencies related to start-up and shut-down operations.
Good egg: Employees would save the cost of one day's commute and have an additional day off for personal and family activities. In areas, like UVA, where parking congestion is a problem, the flex schedule give some relief and reduce the need to build more parking lots.
Bad egg: Some employees may not like the long workday - would efficiency or safety suffer when workers tire? Would operations work as smoothly as a traditional five day workweek, especially when considering vacations, sick leave, employee turnover, and other disruptions?
Not mentioned in the Daily News-Record article or in recent TV coverage are public schools. County school divisions spend huge amounts of money on gas/diesel (as well as related expenses) for student transportation.  
Good egg: Huge savings in both transportation and facility energy usage. The ability to more easily perform maintenance on both buses and buildings during the day of rest. If schedules mesh, parents and kids may have more time together.
Bad egg: Can students, especially younger kids, perform well with a longer school day. Learning would likely suffer. High school students who often work at part time jobs may be impacted. Less time for sports and other extracurricular activities after school. Parents of younger kids who are not on the same schedule would have childcare issues.
Maybe bloggers should cut back to a 4-day week. Not much energy savings, but the brain may clear and the body may rejoice.
Will the 4-day workweek be a partial solution to our energy situation? What will be the intended and unintended consequences? The only thing this bird is sure of it this: the rising costs of energy are going to change our lifestyles. Some adjustments will be tough. Others may give unexpected lifestyle benefits.
Meanwhile, as we look for the golden energy egg, hens' laying schedule will remain the same.

No comments: