The City of Merritt in B.C.'s Interior is launching a four-day work week pilot program in the hope of attracting, recruiting and retaining municipal workers.
The one-year trial, approved by council on Tuesday, will see city hall closed on Mondays, with staff working longer hours on the remaining four days of the week.
Operational hours will be extended from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Tuesday through Friday — an extra hour and 45 minutes each day.
Chief administrative officer Sean Smith said staff wages won't be affected by the change, and he expects the pilot program to launch sometime this fall.
He said he hopes the compressed work week will allow Merritt to compete for talent with bigger municipal governments such as Kamloops and Kelowna.
"We have a struggle here retaining employees in Merritt — they can come here and get a great experience, but we lose them to larger organizations that can afford to pay more," Smith said.
"We have to find a way to be competitive on retention and attraction without it affecting the bottom line for taxpayers."
Growing trend in municipalities
Several municipal governments in Canada have been experimenting with a four-day work week to retain staff and boost workplace morale.
The towns of Quispamsis and Sackville in New Brunswick, for instance, both began pilots this spring. On Wednesday, council of the Township of Springwater, Ont., voted to make a four-day work week pilot permanent.
Barry Carroll, chief administrative officer of the District of Guysborough, N.S., says staff have been happier since the municipality began a four-day work week pilot in June 2020.
The pilot, made permanent last March, divides its 60 staff into two groups — one that works Monday to Thursday, the other working Tuesday to Friday.
"It's been a tremendous success here," Carroll said. "I still see a bounce in their steps — people are excited. Sick leave is way down."
"It's great for camaraderie."
Smith says the Merritt pilot comes at a time when the city is working to recover from last fall's floods, which devastated the community and created additional challenges for staff retention.
He says he understands some residents might get frustrated that city hall is closed on Mondays, but he believes the new schedule will benefit members of the public by allowing them to access municipal services before or after usual work hours.
"I think that the increased levels of productivity and having a staff that is refreshed and ready to work is going to yield benefits for anyone who has business with city hall," he added.
Merritt's pilot project will be reviewed through staff and public surveys after six months and a year to gauge its effectiveness and find out ways it could be improved.