Can Major Changes in Government Happen Quickly and Easily?

Could the federal government implement a four-day workweek in a month or less? Major changes usually require years with appeals, grievances, court appearances and legislative changes. A Maryland Congressman wants the change to happen quickly.

Would you prefer to work 10 hours a day for four days a week rather than 8 hours a day for five days a week?

Steny Hoyer, the long-time Congressman from Maryland (D-MD) whose district includes a large number of federal employees thinks the four day workweek is a good idea.

In a letter to the Office of Personnel Management, he says that the idea would save a lot of gas and make the roads in the Washington, DC area less crowded with all those federal employees going to work five days a week. In his letter to OPM he wrote: “I write to obtain your views on the feasibility of such a policy on the federal level, and an assessment of whether additional statutory authority would be required to accomplish such an objective.”

Based on the government’s experience with implementing the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 or trying to implement pay for performance in some government agencies, changes of a large magnitude normally take a few years–and may or may not be successful–after the legislation is finally implemented, the court cases are resolved and negotiations are completed with the unions that represent federal employees.

Congressman Hoyer obviously is well aware of this but, while it would seem that such a major change in government work practices would require a number of people looking at the economic and management aspects of the issue and the impact such a change would have on the public and the productivity of agencies, Congressman Hoyer says in a press release that he “requests a comprehensive analysis of a transition to a four-day work week before August 31, including notice of any additional actions Congress would need to take to implement such a policy by the end of fiscal year 2008.”

Perhaps the difference between this issue and previous changes to the federal system is that the federal employees themselves might like the idea of not going to work on Friday or Monday so that every week includes a three-day weekend. If the federal workforce and the unions like the idea,  the usual delays created by multiple appeals, court dates, union negotiations and writing legislation may be avoided with the exception of some who file grievances because an agency decided that some jobs or individuals have to work on days they don’t want to be in the office.

The Congressman may be right in his assessment. If a change of this magnitude occurs, it may not be good for the public that uses government services or for government productivity. Any study that would be completed in a month or less that impacts that many people and that many agencies won’t really be comprehensive or thorough so the answer probably won’t be known until after such a change is implemented with little incentive to revert to the more traditional workweek.  On the other hand, productivity or quality of service may be a secondary consideration to keeping constituents happy.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47