Skyrocketing energy costs have fuelled fresh interest in the four-day working week across the United States as a means to help workers as well as employers cope with the surge.
In Alabama, officials decided to implement a four-day week starting from July 1 for 2,400 municipal employees and later in the year for about 1,000 police and firefighters.
The move, allowing employees to work four 10-hour days, may save $500,000 [Dh1.83 million] to $1m annually in fuel costs alone for the employees, according to April Odom, director of communications for the mayor's office.
"Our biggest motivation was to give employees a cost savings due to fuel prices. But it will also save on day care costs for parents," said Odom.
Elsewhere in Maynard, Minnesota, the Maccray School District will start a four-day week from September saving about one per cent of its budget. The shift will mean 149 school days instead of 172, but each day will include an extra 65 minutes of tuition.
Fuel costs have surged to about $4 a gallon in much of the US, up 30 per cent from a year ago, says the American Automobile Association.
The compressed four-day week is among many options being used by employees and employers, including telecommuting and carpooling, to keep transportation costs down.
A survey by consultancy Challenger Gray & Christmas found the most popular programme, used by 23 per cent of companies, is a condensed workweek, which consists of four 10-hour days.
John Challenger, chief executive of the firm, said the silver lining in high energy costs is that companies and employees are becoming more flexible to adapt to difficult circumstances.
Challenger said employers are now focusing more on performance instead of the number of hours worked, and employees are developing ways to cut costs and become more efficient.
"With our BlackBerrys and our technology we are always working," he said.
With four-day weeks, "not only do people miss the heavy commutes by being at the office earlier and later, but also we're moving to a workplace culture where people want long weekends".
"I don't think we're at the tipping point yet but we are seeing a breaking apart of the traditional work week," added Challenger.
A 2007 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management found 38 per cent of companies offer a compressed work week for some employees as part of flexible work benefits. The US government for years has allowed some employees to work a compressed schedule.
Many local governments, from Suffolk County, New York, to El Paso, Texas, are also studying these options for the future.