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Four-day workweek gets A+ at college

  • Story Highlights
  • Brevard Community College began the four-day workweek in summer of 2007
  • College used $267,000 in savings to hire 10 full-time faculty members
  • Gas savings, employee retention, morale boost are a few positive results
  • Utah thinks it can save $3 million by shutting down 1,000 buildings every Friday
  • Next Article in Living »
By John Zarrella
CNN's "American Morning"
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COCOA, Florida (CNN) -- Ask just about any college student, and they'll tell you they'd jump through hoops to avoid taking a class that meets Fridays.

Cosmetology

Brevard Community College used $267,000 in energy savings to add 10 new full-time faculty positions.

So, it was welcome news to students when Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida, decided to experiment with a four-day workweek. A year ago, as energy costs headed up and the school faced cuts in state funding, college President James Drake, who drives a hybrid, decided to give the shortened workweek a try.

It worked out better than anyone could have imagined, Drake says.

"If it weren't for the savings that we have netted from energy management and the four-day workweek, we would not have been able to do several of the vital things that are going to help us attract and retain even more students," Drake said.

Brevard Community College began the four-day workweek during the 2007 summer session. The following fall and spring, it added a half-day but then went back to the four-day work week again this summer. iReport.com: Are you working a four-day week?

Over that year-long period, by closing on Fridays and turning down the air conditioning and heating systems, the college saved $267,000 in energy costs. The savings allowed Brevard to hire 10 full-time faculty members. Video Watch: Shorter work week boosts morale, productivity »

"It was a great thing for me, because I became a full-time faculty," Betty Blaschak said.

"American Morning"
Rising energy prices and budget cuts are forcing some employers to switch to a four-day workweek. How is it working? CNN's John Zarrella finds out this week on "American Morning."
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Blaschak teaches at Brevard's cosmetology school, where scissors and combs are moving a mile a minute as students learn how to style hair. Brooke Stile is one of those students, and taking classes four days a week instead of five makes a huge difference to her.

"The fact that I have that day, that one day, it's just so much nicer, and I just don't have to drive all that way to Cocoa," Stile said.

Stile, who is a single mom, saves a 50-mile round trip with the four days of classes. She spends the extra day with her son, which means one less day she has to pay for child care. She says she can also get more done.

"The bank is only open till noon on Saturdays, so instead of doing it on Saturdays, I can do it on Fridays," Stile said. "And go grocery shopping and there's not going to be a lot of people there." See who else is trying a four-day workweek »

Evers, who drives nearly 100 miles a day from Orlando, Florida, to take a biology class at Brevard, saves gas and says the Friday off is a win-win.

"I get an extra day to go to work, and I have an extra day to study," Evers said.

The four-day workweek at Brevard has yielded even more positive results: There's been a 44 percent reduction in staff turnover, according to Drake.

"We have had a 50 percent increase in applications for employment during the same period this year as opposed to last year," Drake said.

Mili Torres, the director of enrollment at the Cocoa campus, says her staff members rarely miss work.

"Absenteeism has actually gone away almost in my department," Torres said.

However, the longer workdays of a four-day workweek have created some problems for people who need child care. For them, the school provides flex scheduling, which allows staff members to come in and leave earlier or later, depending on what is convenient.

Drake says he often receives calls from other colleges and universities wanting to know how it's working. It's working so well that when the fall semester begins, Brevard Community College will shift to a year-round four-day workweek.

Across the country, businesses, institutions and even one state are considering or have moved to a four-day workweek.

In Utah, the state government has just gone into its second week of shutting down 1,000 buildings on Fridays. The state believes it can save $3 million by moving to a four-day workweek. But just as important as the savings is how employees are affected. Video Watch: Utah first state to try four-day workweek »

Although the change has been a welcome relief to some workers, it's created hardships for others.

Mylitta Barrett, a single mother, says the switch means she spends less time with her three sons.

Barrett now needs a sitter in the mornings to care for her severely disabled son, Joseph, until his bus comes and says she has less time for her other boys as well.

"You can't make up the soccer game that I missed on Monday because you were working and didn't get home until seven o'clock at night," Barrett said.

After 15 years with the state, she says she depends on the medical coverage and can't consider quitting.

"I don't like being thrown in this position where my life is going to get more difficult because of energy savings or whatever reason they decided to do this," Barrett said.

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But Barrett said she knows that hers is an extreme situation and that her supervisors are being as flexible as they can.

Whether the four-day workweek will prove to be just a short-term solution to rising energy costs or is here to stay, only time will tell.

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