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Compressed work week takes off for municipal workers in Ontario’s Algonquin Highlands

July 24, 2023
The Canadian Press

Photo: tippapatt/Adobe Stock
By James Matthews, Haliburton County Echo

Algonquin Highlands township staff know something about a favourable work-life balance.

It used to be you were left to look forward to a long weekend, the few of them that were allowed throughout the year. The long weekend: Each one felt as if you were getting away with something unbeknownst to those who run the system in which most of us are mired and set the work life to be five days of the seven.

As if you were shirking the injustice that’s the two days of your life you’re allowed.

But not in Algonquin Highlands. Not if you’re a municipal employee who has opted to be part of the compressed work week schedule.


They enjoy a long weekend every week.

All but two township employees took part in a six-month trial last year before the setup was officially adopted earlier this year. Over that six-month span, a close eyes was put to staff response to the change and the level of service provided to the public.

Mayor Liz Danielsen said the adjusted schedule seems to have been well-received by people on staff.

“I think that they have adjusted very well,” said Danielsen of those who work the compressed schedule. “I can’t say any more than that.

“We ran a trial and everybody seemed to be very supportive. There were one or two staff members who didn’t participate because of child care issues or family care issues. But they have an opportunity to participate later on when they can.”

Employees can opt in or out of the setup whenever they want.

It can be touted as one of the favourable changes introduced by the coronavirus pandemic when some essential service employers needed to think outside the box to ensure staff safety and a measure of continued service to the public.

Another such change was how some employers continue to permit employees to work remotely, from home.

The trial program was to measure any enhanced customer service with five additional hours per week; improved workplace morale by extending weekends; an innovative recruitment and retention opportunity without incurring any additional corporate expenses; and reducing carbon emissions by having staff commute to work one less day per week.

Two teams worked either Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday. Their hours were between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The two-team approach was utilized to pair employees with overlapping or complimentary knowledge, skillsets and responsibilities to ensure no impact on productivity or business continuity.

Danielsen said the township decided to give a four-day work week a shot as part of effort to fill the vacant jobs at town hall. It’s an attempt to become a preferred employer among job-seekers and to be incentive in staff retention.

“All of the municipalities have been having a hard time recruiting and this is something that we can offer people as a recruitment enhancement,” she said. “It makes us, to some extent, an employer of choice.

“Since the pandemic there’s an awful lot of people who are looking to change employment. They’re looking for something a little but different. Better work-life balance.”

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