By Grace Oborne
It’s been a little over a month since the start of a compressed work week trial for Algonquin Highlands township staff, and with several weeks into a new routine, township employees are happy with the progress.
In June, Algonquin Highlands council supported the trial, which begun July 4, and will continue until Feb. 28, 2023. The compressed work week arrangement means that staff working in the township office have been working 8.75 hours per day, rather than their original schedule of 35 hours per week. Employees have been working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday.
“A compressed workweek is a flexible work arrangement whereby an employee works longer hours in exchange for a reduction in the number of working days in the working cycle,” read the Algonquin Highlands’ Compressed Workweek (Trial) Policy.
According to CAO, Angie Bird, staff have appreciated the additional personal time they gain from this new work plan.
“The feedback has been all very positive. Staff really appreciate the opportunity to integrate additional personal time into their already busy work week,” Bird said.
For Chad Ingram, Algonquin Highlands’ communications coordinator and full-time employee, the new four-day work week has been nothing but a positive experience for not only himself, but his family as well.
“I’m personally a huge fan of the system. I find that that it’s worth it to put in a few extra hours during those four days, and then to have a long weekend, most weekends. In my case, I have two small kids, so this allows me more time to spend with them,” Ingram said.
Though the compressed work week has been beneficial for staff and their families, it is also worthwhile to the public.
Township office hours are now from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, providing an additional five hours of service delivery per week.
“Certainly, one of the benefits, in terms of residents, is that because we’re working longer days, so the office is open longer. Now a workday is [8 a.m. to 5 p.m.] so the office, therefore, is open [8 a.m. to 5 p.m.]. So instead of 40 hours a week being open to the public, the office is now open 45 hours a week to the public,” Ingram said.
The trial is encouraged for staff to try but is not mandatory. There have been staff who have opted out due to other challenges, meaning they continue to work a five-day work week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
According to the staff report to council, “prior to the end of the trial, staff will bring a report back to Council for consideration with a recommendation on whether to the trial should be extended, terminated or made permanent. If Council supports the policy, and the recommended start date, staff will post the changes to the office hours on the township website and on the Township’s various social media platforms.”
Mayor Carol Moffatt has recognized that staff are even happier than they were before the compressed work week.
“I’d like to think that that this is one more way in which Algonquin Highlands can be a leader in business models. Algonquin Highlands staff are all pretty happy generally anyway, but there’s certainly a lot more smiles. There seems to be a different sense in the air, so it’s my impression that people are happy with the scenario,” Moffatt said.
A four-day work week has been implemented in other municipalities such as Dysart et al, but not to the greatest extent that it could be.
“We have four-day work weeks for our roads crew during their summer schedule. We haven’t made any proposals to council yet in terms of this type of arrangement for office or other staff, but monitoring with the hope that the current pilot with our neighbours is successful. If we were to consider a compressed work schedule, we’d have to consider our staff complement within each department and our ability to continue to provide the same level of service within a different time schedule. It is one tool that employers may have to consider more in the current job market to remain competitive,” said Dysart et al CAO, Tamara Wilbee.
For the municipality of Highlands East, it has not been put into effect but is being strongly considered.
“Nothing has been implemented at this time. I can’t answer whether this will be implemented or not as no decision has been made. I can advise that we are reviewing all policies that have been implemented by others in Haliburton County on alternative working arrangements,” said Highlands East CAO, Shannon Hunter.
For more information about Algonquin Highlands, visit www.algonquinhighlands.ca/government.php.