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IT'S A COUPLE of minutes before noon on Friday, and 450 salaried employees of Trico Products Corp. are about to dive headfirst into their weekend.

James Shaul, a program manager, is mentally practicing his golf swing.

Shirley Haynes moves her chair out from behind the switchboard and hangs up the phone.

Paul Collins, general accounting manager, closes the books and turns off his computer.

And John A. Liuzzi, national sales manager, packs his briefcase and cleans his desk.

When the clock strikes noon, there is a dash for the lobby of the Trico building on Ellicott Street. A horde of white-collar workers bolts the door and races to the parking lot.

"It's like a cattle drive," says Shaul.

"By noon, everybody is gone -- and I lead the way out," says Richard L. Wolf, Trico's president and CEO.

"We don't want to see anybody in this place on Friday afternoon."

The Friday noon rush started this month when Trico instituted new work schedules for salaried employees. They now work 8 3/4 -hour days -- except Fridays, when they get the afternoon off.

"It's been a big plus for me and everybody else," Wolf says.

"Getting out early allows you to catch up on a lot of personal things you never have time for. It improves your quality of life."

Shirley Haynes "likes to work around the house and get everything done that you never have time for during the weekend," she said.

"I love it," says Liuzzi. "I've got two boys, 3 and 5 years old, and they get a kick out having Dad home on a Friday afternoon.

"It's like having a three-day weekend every week."

"I look at it as a reward for putting in extra time on weekdays," said Paul Collins.

Does the early quit time harm the employees' work effort?

"Not at all, from what we've seen," Wolf says. "The workers getting out early are more efficient."

"Actually, you work harder to get things done on time," adds Shaul. "You've got to be out of here by noon on Friday, and you're going to do whatever it takes to get the job done on time."

It's not bad for Shaul's golf game, either. "I always golf with my father on Fridays," he said. "We used be lucky to get nine holes in before dark. Now it's 18."

Trico first tried the early Friday dismissal in its London, England, plant, with successful results, Wolf said.

In Buffalo, the company has offered the plan to hourly employees, and the union is considering it, Wolf says.

The employees who are already on the plan appear determined to take advantage of the time off.

One Friday it rained, but that didn't stop Collins from playing golf.

"The rain didn't bother me," he said. "The last thing I want to do on Friday afternoon is sit around the house."

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