By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/17/2006 7:31:46 PM ET 2006-08-17T23:31:46

It's 6 a.m. in Atlanta, and workers at the Lathem clock company are on the line two hours early — all to escape the ticking numbers at the gas pump.

"A lot of people really couldn't afford paying all that gas money," says owner Bill Lathem. "[We] just can't keep giving raises. We were looking for another way."

The longer hours are part of their boss' plan to dull the pain of $3-a-gallon gas and costly commutes.Lathem found a unique solution that works for his employees: Four 10-hour workdays with Fridays off and allowing some staffers to work occasionally from home.

"The company is saving employees $3,500 a year on average," says Lathem. "It's better than any raise you can give an employee, and it's cost nothing to our company."

Lathem also started a van pooling service used by 22 employees, who pay $18, pretax, each week.

"I was spending about $60 a week," says Curt Blair, who rides in the van. "Now it's about $60 a month. So we're saving a lot of money."

And that's a welcomed perk in a city where traffic blues are made worse by all the green it takes to fill up. In fact, Atlanta is the most expensive place in America for driving, where the average commute is 65 miles round-trip.

Sperling's Best Places says a home with two drivers here can spend $5,772 per year on gas. Birmingham, Ala., at $5,464; Orlando, Fla., $5,404; Jacksonville, Fla., $5,360; and Pensacola, Fla., $5,173, round out the top five.

In Southern California, florist Don Waters hasn't quite figured out how to keep his employees from feeling the pinch, despite raising delivery fees from $6 to $10.

"The $10 doesn't cover the maintenance on the vehicles, the vehicles themselves [or] the employees, so we've had to cut back the hours for our employees, so they hurt," says Waters.

Back at Lathem Clock, longer days and gas savings are embraced.

"Oh, I love it," says employee Sharron Keitt. "I really love it, because I look forward to the end of Thursday to go home and relax on Friday."

TGIF on a full tank.

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