Summerland the next municipality to test a four-day work week | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Summerland the next municipality to test a four-day work week

District of Summerland municipal hall.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

The District of Summerland is piloting a four-day work week for the next 18 months to help accommodate customers, and to attract and retain staff.

Employees at Municipal Hall are now working longer days from Tuesday to Friday as the pilot started on June 2.

The pilot was prompted by feedback from customers who wanted extended hours to help accommodate their personal and business schedules, according to a media release from the district. The district and the union worked together to get the pilot going.

“The customer is our number one priority, and it is my hope that these extended hours make a real difference for our residents and the business community” chief administrative officer Graham Statt said in the release. “At the same time, this approach could really help our efforts to attract and retain staff in a very competitive labour market. Turnover affects service, and serving the customer well means keeping the staff we have and having the ability to attract qualified individuals for the positions we need to fill.”

Municipal services open at 8:15 a.m. and extend to 5 p.m., and continue over the lunch hour period which was already the case. Some services will remain on different schedules, for example, building inspections will continue five days per week as will corporate services, but on an appointment-only basis on the Mondays. Bylaw staff will continue to moderate their schedule according to season.

Summerland isn’t the only district testing out the idea of a four-day compressed work week to better accommodate the public and municipal employees.

In an attempt to woo new talent and keep its existing workers happy the City of Merritt adopted a four-day work week in November last year for a year-long pilot.

"It's very much for the City of Merritt a retention measure as well as an attraction measure," Merritt's chief administrative officer Sean Smith told in a previous interview.

"It's really going to provide benefit for employees without needing to increase their salaries which is the main way organizations tend to compete for the highest calibre employees. We're often seen as something of a training ground for larger centres that can afford to pay more and so what we end up seeing is that our employees will come to the City of Merritt and stay for a period of years and then... leave."

There is a large body of evidence that shows working a four-day week is more productive and more popular.

“From my knowledge we have not had any major problems and no major negative feedback,” said communications and engagement manager for the city, Kim Mullin in an interview with iNFOnews in March.

READ MORE: So far, so good for Merritt four day work week pilot

Merritt will be collecting data from the public and employees through surveys to see the effects of the compressed work week.

“When we first put this out to the employees we had a very high percentage of people opting into the program,” Mullin said. “A lot of people in the city hall and community are really supportive of the new schedule so far, and several businesses in Merritt are working on the same one.”

B.C. businesses are facing rising costs from inflation, paid sick days, employer health tax and rising federal taxes leaving many struggling to hire and retain skilled workers, according to a Feb. 27 publication by BC Green Party leader and MLA for Cowichan Valley, Sonia Furstenau.

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The B.C. Green caucus is calling on the provincial government to pilot a three-year shortened work week. The incentive would be a one-time tax break for public and private businesses.

Under the proposed model businesses would submit data to help determine how to reduce work hours while maintaining the same pay rates and allowing for businesses to adapt.

According to the publication, results from pilots and trials worldwide prove that a four-day week is good for businesses and people. They reduce stress and illness, and maintain or even boost productivity. Workers report improved job satisfaction and employers are better able to attract, recruit and retain workers.

“It’s time for this government to get on board and recognize that this is where the economy is going,” Furstenau writes. "With the right policies and incentives, government can encourage and incentivize this shift." 

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Summerland’s project will last for 18 months. During that time, council meetings will be moved from Monday to Tuesday and results of the pilot will be reported back to council in fall 2024.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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