Cover Story: Four-day work week

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The latest unemployment numbers out, and the jobless rate in NC and SC continues to climb to record heights.  But as PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson reports in our Cover Story some companies are turning to a new way to cut costs that keeps workers on the job.. we're talking working only four days a week.

It's been done in the past by some employers as a perk, a morale booster giving employees a three-day weekend.

Not so much that today, now companies are doing it for economic reasons.

When the economy went south and the building stopped few were as hard hit as the design community.

Charlotte-based ADW Architects like many others was left with two choices:  Let people go or reduce hours.

"ADW Architects..."

Unfortunately, they had to do both.

"Our staff temporarily isn't working on Fridays..."

A month ago, they started giving most of the staff Fridays off and cutting them back 8 hours.

Principal architects Tom Carlson-Reddig and Bob Lauer say it's been tough but better than the alternative.

"That's saving some money for the company obviously, saving peoples' jobs," says Carlson-Reddig.  "We hope it's short term. We anticipate it will be."

In a survey done by Charlotte's "The Employers Association" more than 26-percent of its member companies say they planned to reduce the number or hours.. or days of operation.. in a typical workweek.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools went to a four-day week this week.. buildings across the system were closed today.. the parking lot at the Education Center nearly empty.

CMS isn't cutting workers' hours, going with four ten-hour days.  It's doing it to save on overhead.

The school system expects to save more than a quarter of a million dollars,  $281,000 by turning off the AC, lights and water at its administrative buildings on Fridays.

Central Piedmont Community College and Rowan-Salisbury Schools to name a few are doing the same.. to save on overhead.

Laura Hampton with The Employers Association says she's not surprised the four-day work week would take off during the downturn, but the jury's out on whether employees buy into it.

She says, "Many times you make a change to peoples' schedules it causes a moment of turmoil-- how am I going to make that work? Figuring out child care issues and things of that nature. But at the same time who doesn't want to be off on Friday???"

Back at ADW Architects with a four day week and a cut in pay some are taking lemons and making lemonade.

Says Bob Lauer, principal at the firm, "It also gives some of them an opportunity to go get a part time job if they can find one. It gives them a good solid consecutive three day to offer to another employer."