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Ontario municipality adopts four-day, compressed workweek

February 27, 2023
The Canadian Press

With the four-day system — also known as a compressed work week — employees are split into two shifts. (sinseeho/Adobe Stock)
By James Matthews, Minden Times

Extending employees’ weekend through a compressed workweek would go a long way toward making Ontario’s Algonquin Highlands a preferred employer.

Mayor Liz Danielsen broached that idea during council’s regular meeting Feb. 16. That thought is based on feedback from staff surveyed after they participated in a shortened week trial period.

Council voted in favour of adopting shorter workweeks for municipal staff starting March 1.

Municipal administration staff participated in a compressed workweek trial program last year. Two staff members opted not to participate in the program, for personal reasons.


Two-team approach

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.

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.

All staff that participated support a permanent compressed workweek.

A few hiccups: CAO

Angie Bird, the town’s CAO, said there were some hiccups at the program’s beginning. But they were resolved.

“In the beginning there were some challenges with staffing to make sure that if somebody was on holidays we had the proper coverage,” she said. “After those challenges were experienced, that smoothed out very quickly.”

By way of the survey, staff said the shortened workweek brought an improved work-life balance and higher morale.

“All of staff, everyone that I have talked to, (said) it has been an incredible improvement in their life,” Bird said. “I think that’s incredibly important to note.”

Danielsen said she’s heard from council colleagues that there’s support for continuing with compressed work weeks.

“I do think that it puts us in a position to be preferred employer,” the mayor said. “We all know the difficulties we’ve had seeking staff to fill positions. That’s a problem across the county and the province and, I’m sure, the country.”

Councillor Sabrina Richards said she supports a compressed workweek.

“I think it’s really good for everyone,” Richards said. “I wish I could get the same.”

“Me, too,” Danielsen said.

“That’s the fault of my own life,” Richards quipped. “I did notice in the comments there was one about when it falls on a statutory holiday week. I kind of felt sympathy for the point because you do feel like you’re not really getting the stat holiday anymore with having that four-day workweek.”

Danielsen said that would be something to be cognizant about.

“This may evolve over time,” she said.

Deputy Mayor Jennifer Dailloux suggested the schedule be made permanent.

If council decides to adopt such a schedule, Bird said staff would be able to participate or opt out for the seven-day workweek.

“But if you are opting out right now, that doesn’t mean that you’re opting out for 20 years,” she said. “We’ll work with those staff as it comes.”

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