NIU implements shorter work week

By Melissa Blake

For the third summer, NIU will implement a four-day work week starting the week of June 6 in light of the budget crisis, university officials say.

“The four-day summer work week requires that you [faculty and staff] fulfill these same responsibilities during a longer and more concentrated daily schedule,” said NIU President John Peters, who approved the decision in a letter to faculty and staff. “However, the efficiencies and savings attributable to this practice are significant and well justified.”

The schedule will not impact the general operations of the university, and no summer classes have been cut, said Ivan Legg, executive vice president and provost.

Last summer, NIU saved $148,110 in electricity costs, said Michael Saari, associate director of the physical plant. Saari hopes to see similar savings this year, but the actual dollar figure for this year’s savings is “difficult to predict” until summer’s end, he said. The savings amount is dependent on the weather. If the weather is mild, NIU will save more because buildings will not have to be air conditioned as much.

The four-day work week is one means of recouping some operational costs, said Steve Cunningham, associate vice president for administration and human resources. It has proved to be effective in the past, and it is feasible because summer classes do not meet on Fridays.

“We’ve been looking for every possible means to do it,” he said.

NIU is concerned strictly with operational savings, not salary savings, Cunningham said. Faculty salaries will remain the same, but the work will be condensed into four days instead of five. All university operations and academic programs “are fully done” over the extended-day schedule of 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“Those are long days for employees, but many already work days of that length,” Cunningham said. Employees have found the summer schedule favorable, he said.

The four-day week “meshes nicely” with the traditional summer classes’ schedule, said Sue Doederlein, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“All NIU people have worked hard in the past years to make this schedule functional for everyone,” she said.

Margaret Myles, director of academic advising and student services for the College of Education, appreciates the four-day work week. It gives her time to re-energize, she said.

“I can get all my personal errands and running around done on Friday and have the weekend to spend with my family,” Myles said.

But the shorter week can be problematic for some. The Office of the Ombudman has received complaints from prospective students and their families and businesses because of offices being closed on Fridays, said University Ombudsman Tim Griffin.

“Those folks tend to assume that the university will be open on Fridays,” he said. “[But] if we can save money on utilities, we have the money available to do things like offer classes that students need.”