Energy costs: Company moves to four-day week to save on bills

Two Cork-based companies are taking action to cut energy costs and avoid outage uncertainty

A Cork company is saving thousands of euro a month on energy bills by moving to a four-day week without any loss in productivity.

Rick Livingstone, managing director at Socomore, said they had now moved to a four-day working week, working slightly longer days, after employees were saying they were unable to afford to come to work due to the rising cost of diesel and petrol.

“Everyone was moaning about how much it was costing them to come to work. Some guys travel an hour and it was really hurting them to come to work,” he said.

They had already moved to working slightly earlier hours to match their parent company’s time in France. “A proposal was brought that would see the work days extended slightly and get the same amount of production out but not have to fire up the factory on a Friday.”


Mr Livingstone said the workers and management came to the idea almost simultaneously.

Socomore, which employs 18 people at its site in Cork and has revenues of about €7 million, produces cleaning products that have special chemicals in them that allow them clean aircraft. They also provide products that help utility companies when they are cutting or combining cables. They employ a further eight people remotely.

Single shift pattern

Mr Livingstone said his company was relatively lucky in that it only had a single shift pattern, which meant it could simply finish on a Thursday evening for the week. Other companies which run 24 hours and have multiple split shifts would find it more difficult, he said.

Employees now work from 7am to 5pm Monday to Thursday and have shaved off some time from their lunch break. This means they have not seen any loss in productivity.

“We shut everything down on a Thursday night… the heating starts again on Sunday evening and we start the factory up again on Monday morning. So we are saving a full day and a half [on energy costs].”

He said they were now saving thousands of euro per month on their energy bills.

Employees had embraced the four-day working week and the company had not encountered any problems since the introduction of the scheme, Mr Livingstone said. They had also rearranged their timings in terms of deliveries and exports with their couriers.

Meanwhile, Brenda Cooper, operations manager at Horner, said the company was considering changing the time employees come to work because they could not be sure there would not be power outages during winter.

Security of supply

Horner makes hardware and software equipment to automate processes. “It’s like a mini computer that controls and regulates processes. It can be in agriculture or food processing or power.” It employs 20 people at their site in Cork.

Ms Cooper said they were particularly worried about the risk of power outages or surges this winter which could have an effect on the production of their hardware.

“We look at risk, one of those is cost and profitability. But a bigger risk is security of supply. If we are testing something and we get a spike, it can kill the product,” she said.

“If we commit to delivering something and we kill all the components, it could take another six months to get them together again.”

She said they were now looking at moving the start time of business to earlier in the day to ensure they were not working at peak energy usage times when an outage or spike might occur.

Ms Cooper said there was uncertainty from their gas and electricity supplier about how serious the problems were, compared to what they were hearing in the media. There was a “lot of hype” in the media and there was a “lack of knowledge” from the suppliers which had led to uncertainty in industry.

“We are talking to the employees, if it’s going to be out between 4pm-6pm or 5pm-7pm, then maybe we start the day earlier. Do we do an 8am-3pm or 8am-4pm?”

She said there was a commitment from employees to work different hours if necessary. “The opposite side of that coin is if I have everyone in the dark with no communication. That is not going to be very productive for people dragging them into work and not having any power to work.”