Algonquin Highlands is the latest Ontario municipality to adopt a 4-day work week, and no one’s complaining so far.
That from the township’s mayor, Liz Danielsen, who says all the staff surveyed have reacted positively to the change.
“They’re finding that their productivity is good, that the morale in the office is great, saying that they liked the program, that it was working well for them, that they enjoyed the flexibility,” says Danielsen. “And I’ve got to say the staff have been absolutely wonderful when flexibility is required, for instance if someone is ill or we needed to change things up a bit. They’ve all worked with us to switch things around.”
The condensed work week permanently went into effect on March 1, after township council approved the policy at its February meeting. It follows a six month trial run, which started last summer.
According to Danielsen, COVID-19 was the initial inspiration for the change, as staff alternated working from the office and working from home to avoid having too many people in the same building at once. “We saw that what we had been doing throughout the pandemic was working quite well and productivity was great, so we decided to go on a six-month trial and that worked really, really well,” she says.
That, alongside work-life balance legislation from the province, and a desire to make the township an “employer of choice” despite being non-unionized, made them look at how they could do things differently. “I think more and more people have been looking to make changes. In times gone by, when we put out an ad for a job, we would get all kinds of applications, and now the number of people that are applying for jobs are fewer, and they’re a little bit more selective,” says Danielsen.
The roughly 40 year-round staff now work either Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on a 35-hour schedule, or 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on a 40 hour schedule. For long weekends, staff take the holiday and work a half hour less for the rest of the week.
Danielsen adds that residents don’t seem to mind, as the longer working hours mean municipal services are open an extra 30 minutes each day.
She notes that Haliburton County offers some four-day work week and work-from-home options, but not in a compressed week format.
“It’s interesting, I’ve been asked if I saw this sort of compressed work week working in a bigger municipality, or for business,” says Danielsen. “I really can’t see the difference, if you’ve got the staff. If they’re available to the public or to their clients, I don’t see there being a difference. I think this can work in almost any environment.”