We've said it once, and we'll say it again: shorter workweeks are nice for employees, but they're a hassle for the rest of us.
Bloomfield this week became the latest city in the area to adopt the coveted four-day workweek. The city joins Aztec and San Juan County, which have implemented similar schedules over the last few years.
The shorter workweek trend may work for certain businesses, but when it comes to government, we think cities should be thinking about how to better serve the public, not just their employees.
Studies predictably show four-day workweeks boost employees' morale. Of course, they do. Who doesn't want a three-day weekend built into their schedule? In this case, it's great for the 120 people the city of Bloomfield employs. But for the 8,000 residents the city serves, it's an inconvenience.
The cost savings — which stem from things like not using utilities or operating city vehicles on Fridays — likely won't have a major effect on the city's budget. More importantly, government has an obligation to serve the public and make citizens' lives easier. At the end of the day — or the week, in this case — the shorter workweeks hurts the people government is designed to help.
City officials argue four-day, 10-hour workweeks allow residents to conduct city business before or after work. We don't see that. Bloomfield will move from being open for five, eight-hour days to four, ten-hour days. The new hours, which go into effect May 5, mean city offices will be open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Let's not kid ourselves. That extra hour in the morning does little for busy, working residents who are already pressed for time with getting their families up and out the door. And the 5:30 p.m. closing time is hardly enough time for residents to conduct city business. The standard workday ends at 5 p.m., which gives residents only half an hour to get over to city offices after work. For Bloomfield residents who work outside the city, that could be difficult. And for those who have even a relatively short commute from Farmington, it's downright impossible unless you happen to hit every green light on the way home.
If anything, the city should extend its hours later into the evening. Keeping opening hours at 8 a.m. and shifting closing time back to 6:30 p.m., for example, would mean that more people could take advantage of city services after work.
It's also worth noting the city's move to the four-day workweek is preemptive. Officials say they're planning ahead for a possible oil and gas boom. In that environment, they fear staff will flee the modest wages of public service for higher paying jobs in energy. Aside from the fact that it's a little insulting to assume city staff are only in it for the money, the whole premise is based on something Bloomfield can't possibly know.
There are certainly signs the industry is picking back up, but most people are still uncertain when — or even if — the result will be a boom. And unless the city of Bloomfield recently picked up a crystal ball they don't know either.