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Four-day work weeks: Rural municipalities lead the way

More and more rural communities across Canada are adopting four-day work weeks in an effort to attract and retain more talent.

Last week that Algonquin Range, Ont. announced that it will permanently switch to a “compressed” working week. Instead of working five days a week and eight hours a day, municipal employees will work 10-hour days four days a week.

Algonquin Highlands is the latest in a growing list of rural communities to opt for a compressed four-day work week. Other Ontario municipalities that have already done the same include Aylmer, Zora, Springwater and French River. Four-day workweek trials also took place in Merritt, BC, Saint John, NB, and the Guysborough area in Nova Scotia.

David Arbuckle of the Ontario Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers said the measures are a response to high staff turnover in municipalities, noting that compressed work weeks are also nothing new to the industry.

“They’re looking for ways to stay competitive in the industry because municipalities are competing for talent with the private sector for other public sector jobs, so they have to look for innovative ways to create an environment where people will be attractive to enter.” and work in their city hall,” Arbuckle said.

Jobs in the municipal sector can be very stressful environments, Arbuckle says, because they involve answering to both residents and elected officials. Arbuckle also notes that the sector has seen high levels of retirement turnover even before COVID-19.

Trials of a four-day work week found that employees in the US and Ireland reported lower levels of stress, fatigue and burnout, as well as improvements in mental health. At the same time, the incomes of the participating companies increased.

When? Zorra Township, Ont. implemented its four-day work week, the fact that employees worked longer days meant that the city office could be open to the public longer each day.

“At Zorra, we saw that they were actually able to work a four-day work week, have longer hours during those days, but actually raise the standard of their services to the public. So ultimately, again, that’s why other municipalities may be looking. on it,” Arbuckle said.

But while rural communities have led the way in introducing four-day work weeks, the idea has yet to catch on in larger cities. Arbuckle said work schedules are “a little easier to maneuver” in smaller municipalities, some of which have five or fewer employees.

“Bigger communities, you have a lot more coordination to do with different departments. You also typically have a higher union presence, and those union contracts can be a barrier to some of the changes you want to make in the overall environment; “It is not impossible, but of course it requires a little more negotiations,” he said.

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