Town tests compressed work week for public works, community service staff

MINTO – Public works and community service staff here will be moving to a four-day work week for the summer months.

Town council approved the pilot project on May 9 following a presentation by Minto human resources coordinator Quinn Foerter.

Under the plan, public works staff would be split into teams to ensure continuity of services, with one shift working Monday to Thursday from 6am – 4:30pm with a half-hour unpaid lunch break and another shift working the same hours Tuesday to Friday.

The work week will still consist of 40 hours.

“Arranging the operators into two separate groups will allow the municipality to offer extended hours of service five days per week, providing residents with an extra two hours of service each day at no additional cost to the taxpayer,” Foreter explained in a written report.

Community services staff members are scheduled based on the needs of the department, typically working two weekday shifts and two weekend shifts one week, and four weekday shifts the following week, the report explains.

Shifts for community services staff can start as early as 6am and as late as 4pm.

The revised work week would apply only to public works and community service staff working a standard 40-hour week.

“Attracting and retaining top talent is a significant concern across all industries in the recent employment climate,” Foerter told council.

“So both public and private sector industries everywhere are looking for ways to improve the employee experience through more innovative means, in the hopes of being able to market themselves as an employer of choice.

“Implementing this schedule will have a number of benefits for our employees, including the improvement of their work/life balance, which is such a key concept in emerging employment trends for 2023, as well as an increase in job satisfaction, and employee morale.”

Foerter added, “There are also benefits for the town as an employer, such as reduced absenteeism, and to the ratepayers as reports show that moving to this type of schedule increases the level of service the departments can provide.”

Foreter stressed the new work schedule could not be used in the winter.

“Come November 1, they will have to shift back to their regular winter maintenance schedule, as four tens is not feasible in the winter months,” she explained.

She also pointed out the plan will not apply to administrative and office staff due to the standard 37.5-hour work week, customer service requirements and coverage availability.

“It’s not feasible for the indoor staff to move to a four-day work week at this time,” she stated.

“But we are monitoring municipalities and organizations in the area to see what other people do.”

Before recommending the shift, Foerter said staff looked at the experience of other municipalities that have gone to a compressed work week, including the Townships of Zorra and Wellesley and the Town of Aylmer.

“It is worth noting that all three of these municipalities are relevant comparators to the Town of Minto in terms of being a full-service municipality with populations of 8,200, 11,300 and 7,500 respectively,” she said.

“I think it’s a real positive thing,” commented councillor Ron Elliott.

“It’s a win-win situation for us. I think we’ll get more productivity from our staff … and they’ll be more excited about doing their job.”

Councillor Judy Dirksen asked if there would be any flexibility in the policy for employees who might prefer to stick with a five-day week due to child care arrangements or other factors.

“There might be reasons that maybe it wouldn’t work out too well with family life,” Dirksen observed.

“There wasn’t anyone who was really opposed to it,” Foeter replied.

“It would, for the start, have to be sort of an all-or-nothing type thing, just in terms of the number of trucks that we have and the jobs where you have to have more than one person.

“So having someone start later in the day, or leave earlier, wouldn’t really work out health and safety-wise.”

Council approved a motion endorsing the compressed work week pilot project and directed staff to take action to implement it from May to October.

Council also directed staff to provide a follow-up report upon completion of the trial period.